Today, A+E-owned History Channel announced that it is launching a new late-night comedy block stacked with three shows oriented around various history-related themes. And one of those shows, “Crossroads of History” — a comedic twist on largely unknown but historically accurate events or moments in a historical figure’s life — includes a history-in-the-making television deal for Maker Studios, and production partner Trium Entertainment.
Not only does “Crossroads” mark the first original series from Maker Studios to be distributed on linear television, but History Channel, Maker Studios and Trium are breaking new ground in a distribution model, that if works, could become a go-to path for the future.
“They say “Comedy is all in the timing,” And this deal is certainly no different,” said Maker Studios’ EVP of programming, Bonnie Pan, who told VideoInk that the deal came together over dinner in New York City with History Channel executive producer Paul Cabana.
“We were able to say, ‘Ok, we have this series and let’s see if there’s a way we can build a new model. Traditionally, everybody tends to hug everything in so closely. There was an opportunity because of the programming [History] is doing with the late night comedy block to say “Let’s also explore what can happen in digital beyond that first linear window and can we create a new programming cycle.”
And so Maker Studios and History will pave their own history-making path by releasing episodes of “Crossroads of History”, eight in total all of which are short form, on History channel for an exclusive 48 hours, at which point episodes will be syndicated to Maker Studios-branded channels as well as History’s own digital destinations.
According to Pan, the approach is entirely experimental and intended to be iterated in real-time as necessary. For instance, episodes may be edited slightly, or distributed on certain cascading windows on digital based on what learnings the teams pick up as they go. The team will also experiment with edited or original versions on various other social channels like Twitter and Facebook.
Leading up to the deal with History, Maker Studios and Trium also found the project at an interesting distribution crossroads. “The truth is there are a lot of brilliant writers and creators working today that are frustrated with the TV business. Development cycles are long and all too often their best work doesn’t fit in TV’s rigid model — especially as they creatively explore new forms of storytelling,” said Trium co-founder Eric Day, who found the project penned by writer/actress Elizabeth Shapiro (“Movie 43”) and pushed it, at Trium’s own expense, into a pilot.
A pilot which found its way to Maker Studios and was immediately ordered to series. “Elizabeth is a really amazing writer and creator and through conversations with her and talking through the different historic facts through a comedic lens. It’s rare that you’re in a room laughing about small pox or the Civil War. But the way that the facts are so accurate you’re able to take that small moment and turn it into razor sharp comedy, showed us it was a really special project,” added Pan.
History’s new comedy block will air Thursday, February 25th at 11:30 PM and will feature talent such as Brian Baumgartner (“The Office”), Angela Kinsey(“The Office”), Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”), Wayne Knight (“Seinfeld”), Lloyd Ahlquist (“Epic Rap Battles of History”) and Paul Scheer (“The League”).
“It’s really gratifying to see [Maker’s] foresight [for a project not obviously traditional] validated by a marquee distributor like History. This is just the beginning of Crossroads’ journey — and this is a good indicator of where this business of ours is headed,” added Day.
CAA and David Freeman packaged the deals and also rep Trium.