Two weeks after the independently-produced Pioneer One‘s online premiere, the show has definitely found its audience. According to TorrentFreak, the half-hour pilot is now the best-seeded TV show on BitTorrent. Plus, the legally distributed file has been downloaded over a million times, surpassing illegal downloads of current shows like True Blood and Doctor Who.
That, added to the fact that the project has received over $20,000 in donations for future episodes, means that the show will definitely go on. Creator Josh Bernhard told TorrentFreak that the $20,000 will fund a block of three new episodes, which are now currently in pre-production. “We’re still looking for more solid backing toward our ultimate financing goal, but the donation money was absolutely crucial for us to move forward. We have some promising prospects, and we’ll know more on that within a couple of weeks,” he said.
Finding a stable source of income for the project would not only be a validation of Bernhard and co-creator Bracey Smith’s work, but it would show once again that an independent project can rise to success on the strength of its fan base. However, given the immense outpouring of support for the project, I wonder if it would be possible to keep Pioneer One as a purely fan-supported operation.
Certainly, the money wouldn’t be as good as a studio deal — but it would also guarantee that Bernhard and Smith would continue to own their intellectual property and control the project’s future. And there’s a simple way to formalize the process of fan donations — the creation of a subscription system could enable different types of rewards with different levels of financial participation. Subscription models for web series haven’t yet been proven to be sustainable. But this might be the right project to try it.
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