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Summary:

Kiefer Sutherland’s ambitious original web series The Confession, which was deficit-financed and launched exclusively on Hulu, is already profitable. And with international distribution, as well as a DVD release ahead, it looks like there’s plenty of money left to be made.

the confession

The Confession, which was produced by Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG) and starred Kiefer Sutherland, was an ambitious project for an original web series: Deficit-financed and launched exclusively on Hulu, DBG bet that with a big name star and a well-written script, a series could make money even without running on TV first. With plenty of money left to be made, it looks like that bet has already paid off.

The good news for fans of The Confession — and for fans of web video in general — is that the project is already profitable. DBG CEO Chris Young told us in a phone interview that Hulu viewership exceeded its expectations. According to him, the average episode had a 95 percent completion rate, meaning viewers were watching all the way up to the credits — and the biggest complaint from the series was that episodes were too short, at six to eight minutes each.

But with its exclusive run on Hulu nearly over, the series still has plenty of monetization opportunities left: DBG plans to extend availability for the series to a much wider group of sites that are part of its monetization network, expanding the opportunity for viewership and ad dollars. The Confession will launch on Canadian video portal CTV.ca at the end of June, and the company is currently in discussions for distribution on a number of other international destination sites.

The company also plans to release a full-length DVD of the series, and is considering licensing it to subscription services like Netflix or making it available through VOD services like iTunes. In terms of DBG’s ability to monetize The Confession, Young said DBG was probably in the second of nine innings.

The fact that The Confession is profitable is good news for web-original series, as it shows that there’s money to be made online — if you have the right star or the right story. According to Young, DBG set out to prove that “with A-level talent, an A-level script and A-level production values,” the company could turn a profit online. And it did so without a big sponsor attached to the project at launch. In fact, the whole thing was deficit-financed in the hope that it would be able to make back whatever money it spent on production. That means it was a bit of a leap of faith for DBG, which specializes in creating branded content for big advertisers like the Sunglass Hut-sponsored series Full Time Fabulous.

But the success of The Confession means that DBG will definitely produce more projects like it in the future, according to Young. It’s also indicative of a market that might finally be ready for more original content, both for consumers and for advertisers.

  1. As a geoblocked series, this series is not on the World Wide Web and hence has yet not earned the term “web” which is part of the web series name. A series needs to be globally distributed before it can be considered an actual web series.

    That said the online videos were quite nice.

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  2. Yes indeed there is money online. It’s fortunate for him to not only to be an actor but an entrepreneur as well and Hulu is doing a great online these days.

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  3. Jesco White Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    The title of this article is a little misleading and the whole thing reads a little like a press release to help them close more deals as the Hulu exclusivity ends. How can you say it was a profitable project just because there are opportunities to run it it other places? Good for those guys for putting together a big project like this that looked good and all but lets see a real P/L.

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  4. Kiefer Sutherland is one of the most “bankable” actors in the world, and while I toast the successes of this series, I find it a leap to use it as an example of “prov(ing) online video can be profitable.” If Kiefer Sutherland sold pork loins on the corner of 50th and Broadway, it would similarly prove there’s money to be made in pork loins.

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