Back in January, Louis C.K. quietly debuted the self-produced, self-financed, digital-exclusive series “Horace and Pete” with no promotion, only an announcement to fans on his web site.
The direct-to-fan approach had worked for the actor/comedian in the past. For years, he’s sold tickets to his live concerts online through his web site, eliminating the service fees charged by corporate ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster and keeping his profit margins high. He’s also been self-producing his stand-up comedy specials and distributing them direct-to-digital for $5 since 2011’s “Live at the Beacon Theater.”
But the strategy didn’t work out so well for “Horace and Pete,” which talk show host Jimmy Kimmel described as “’Cheers’ if everyone there was depressed.”
During an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show” on Monday,” Louis C.K. admitted the show has left him with “millions of dollars in debt.”
Produced through Louis C.K.’s own production company Pig Newton, each episode cost him around $500,000. After the first four shows, he had to take out a line of credit to finish the final six.
Louis C.K. certainly didn’t skimp on talent for the “Horace and Pete,” which was shot sitcom-style with four live cameras on two standing sets. Set in a bar of the same name run my family members Horace (Louis C.K.), Pete (Steve Buscemi) and Uncle Pete (Alan Alda), it features a theme song written and performed by Paul Simon and guest stars including Jessica Lange, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Kurt Metzger and Edie Falco.
Louis C.K. released each show as he wrote and shot them. The first episode was priced at $5, the second at $2, and the remaining eight at $3.
“I thought I can spend two million bucks on [the first four episodes of] this show and it will hurt and leave me with no cushion in life, but I’m willing to do that because I’ll go on the road afterwards and I’ll make it back,” he said on the Stern show.
Louis C.K. said sales spiked following a March 9 appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and now that he’s giving it a strong promotional push (including appearances on “Charlie Rose” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”), he expects the show to be in the black by the summer.
Louis C.K. said the experience was worth the financial hardship.
“No other way could I have made a show where, when you’re watching it, you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know when you’re going to see another one or who’s in it,” he told Stern.