By Sahil Patel
Vimeo has made its first-ever original programming commitment. And true to its core as an online video destination for independent filmmakers, the company has elected to fund an existing web series that’s been distributed on its site.
“High Maintenance” (which we at VideoInk are huge fans of), from the husband-and-wife duo of Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, follows a nameless bike-riding New York City weed dealer as he distributes his product to clients, who happen to be neurotic and diverse as the Big Apple.
A stoner comedy that’s not, according to our own review of the show by Liz Shannon Miller, “High Maintenance” debuted on Vimeo with 13 episodes. The series is produced by Janky Clown Productions, written and directed by Blichfeld and Sinclair, stars Sinclair, and has featured guest appearances from the likes of Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) and Hannibal Buress (“30 Rock”).
That last part shouldn’t be surprising: Blichfeld is an award-winning casting director who’s worked on “30 Rock,” while Sinclair has appeared in shows like “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Big C,” and “Delocated.”
Vimeo’s deal with the series creators includes financing six new episodes, which will launch exclusively on Vimeo On Demand later this year.
“We’re all huge fans of ‘High Maintenance’ and couldn’t be happier to make our first original programming investment in a show that’s developed organically on Vimeo,” said Kerry Trainor, CEO of Vimeo, in a statement. “Earlier this year we announced an initial $10 million investment to license content for distribution on Vimeo On Demand from creators seeking alternatives to ad-based models and this as an exciting next step for the platform.”
To date, Vimeo’s $10 million fund has been primarily used to acquire exclusive, limited-time distribution rights to films from top film festivals, as well as to provide marketing and distribution support to projects successfully funded via crowdfunding platforms. That said, when Vimeo announced the fund, the company also said it would look to acquire individual titles for exclusive distribution.
This commitment to content that you can’t get anywhere else naturally brings up the question of original programming, which Trainor previously hasn’t shied away from. During a March panel for VideoInk, the chief executive hinted that original programming was a possibility for Vimeo. He cited a “proven playbook” that was first executed by companies and most recently by Netflix, which is: aggregate and curate third-party content that people want to watch, build your brand and audience off of that, and then serve them with exclusive content of your own.
Neither the pricing nor the release schedule for the new “High Maintenance” episodes has not been set yet. The first 13 episodes are available for free on Vimeo.
Blichfeld and Sinclair are repped by Gregory McKnight at CAA, and Kim Jaime at Jackoway Tyerman.