Louis CK’s Self-Distribution Experiment

Louis CK doesn’t completely agree with the way his material is distributed to fans. Simply, there is a massive middleman between the two. The classic model for a comic to get material to fans is to do so through comedy specials that get distributed through Comedy Central, HBO or DVD in general.

With all of his relatively new power and influence, Louis decided to forge a new path for his latest special titled “Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater,” and decided to give fans the ability to buy an unencrypted version of the special on his website. After paying a small amount for the content, a fan could download it and/or stream it.

There is no middleman, no distributor, and no large corporation involved. It’s a transaction between the comic and the fan. It’s certainly a different model. So, will this be successful? When I first heard about it, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Well, the verdict is in.

Louis wrote a statement on his website regarding the experiment. This, in part, reads: ”The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58).”

Taking video production, website development and PayPal fees into consideration, Louis has profited on this new venture. Yes, even despite the massive taxes he will have to pay.

Usually, Louis CK gets a large paycheck when he does a special. It makes sense; he’s one of the biggest comics in the world today. He says the profit he has seen thus far is a good deal less than if he had committed to doing this special via confessional means.

Still, the comic considers this a successful venture, because the traditional distribution route would have cost fans upwards of $20 to view the special. In this instance, CK only charged $5. A far smaller amount of money than fans would have had to pay.

Check out the new Louis CK special not just because it’s funny, but also because it’s a novel and innovative idea. In an era when people love to complain, but not act, Louis CK has provided a great example of the impact that the proper execution of a new idea can bring.

Rory McGrath Contributing Editor of OWS. Attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Graduated with a BA in Economics. Current MBA candidate at Northeastern University, living in Boston.

View all posts by Rory McGrath

One Response to “Louis CK’s Self-Distribution Experiment”

  1. Steven M. Paquin

    This past year has been a big year of digital and independent entertainment distribution. There was Joss Whedon’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, and Netflix’s announcement of HOUSE OF CARDS and bringing back ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT to the screen. With theatre attendance continuing to decline and digital traffic continuing to rise, I think we’re going to start seeing much more of this.


Leave a Reply