Playwright and entrepreneur Tyler Perry has said he was inspired to start writing after watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, fifteen years later, he’s got a show of his own. The Tyler Perry Show, which will only be available online, is the first result of a partnership between talent firm the William Morris Agency and streaming video technology provider Narrowstep (NRWS).
Perry has made millions on his melodramatic morality plays, and while critics often find his work maudlin, he’s been a big hit with audiences — specifically African-American audiences. The movie adaptation of his play Diary of a Mad Black Woman grossed over $50 million in domestic box office sales and was made on a budget of just $5.5 million. The question now is whether or not his appeal to mainstream black audiences will translate online.
Perry has certainly found success with non-traditional business models.
His syndication deal Debmar-Mercury‘s syndication deal with TBS and Fox for Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, for example, is unique in that 100 episodes were ordered on spec from an independent production, without previously having had a successful run on a network.
The talk show, a slickly produced multi-camera affair with a live studio audience, is similarly eschewing the traditional television model — and if successful, could get picked up for syndication as well.
That William Morris is helping talent go directly online is also an interesting development, especially with the threat of a talent strike looming in Hollywood, comedians such as Will Ferrell and Harry Shearer landing venture capital deals for online projects, and producers Matt Stone and Trey Parker developing a destination site with free episodes of their hit show South Park.
For Narrowstep, Perry’s programming would seem to be another natural niche-market fit. The company also delivers Internet TV channel Watch India, as well as Spanish language programming in Spain and Peru.