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Whedon to Pioneer New Distribution Model

Joss Whedon’s upcoming writers’ strike-inspired web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, is the closest thing to a sure hit online, even if it is going to be a musical (hey, that’s just unusual — not bad!). Turns out Whedon has a pretty interesting plan for pleasing fans, making a big impact, and perhaps making a bit of money, too.

The plan (which was first posted as a comment on a fan site, I believe) is to release the three parts of the 42-minute project on July 15, July 17 and July 19 respectively, for free. But at midnight on July 20, “They will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.),” as Whedon put it. After that, the whole thing will be available for purchase.

I like it! A way to have scarcity without signing some exclusive deal with a portal whose audience isn’t necessarily your fan base. A way to get everyone in the same place, buzzing about what you’re doing without depending on outside promotion. Hey, maybe it’s something only Whedon could do, but it’ll be exciting to watch it play out.

The ultimate goal is to make a DVD, Whedon told, which got an exclusive preview of the series (and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up). And boy does this sound good:

“We’re already working on some of the DVD extras, which are going to be the finest in all the land. We’re actually going to do, in addition to the commentary, what we refer to as ‘commentary with an exclamation point’! A musical commentary that is a completely original musical, that is all commentary songs, and we’re writing that now… We’re just piling it on. We’re like, we’re going to make more fun of the idea of extras than anything else.”

I love that instead of manipulating the system in tired ways to find an audience and make money, Whedon just makes more one-of-a-kind content. While he does sound earnest in the TVGuide interview about proving there’s another way to make good stuff that’s cheaper but not too cheap, Whedon of course follows with levity: “Maybe… it can make us an eleven-ty kadillion dollars. Or maybe it won’t.”

17 Responses to “Whedon to Pioneer New Distribution Model”

  1. I think Joss is definitely leading the way on this. In its own way, it is an echo of the TV on DVD model–give something away for free, then sell the DVDs with added value. A large part of the reason that the Firefly dvds sold so well was that there was a ton of content you could only get on the DVDs–unaired episodes, commentary on every episode, etc.

    I will say that this seems a harder model for anyone just breaking out. A fan base can make this work, but he garnered his fan base through old media (TV, comics, etc.)

    Still, to echo many, he just might be on to something.

  2. I usually don’t hesitate to drop some coin on Whedon’s work. I’ll probably check out the downloads to get a feel for what this is, first, if I can remember to do so sometime between July 15-19. :)

  3. Of the short list of film/TV creators willing and able to give this model a go, surely it is Whedon more than anyone (other than possibly JK Rowling, Kevin Smith, or Guillermo del Toro?) who might make it work. Mainly due to his dedicated and net-saavy fandom.

    My fingers and toes are crossed for him. For all of us.

  4. The last quote/comment was more or less hinting toward either a sequel or more similar content coming from him/his crew. And plus, he would love for everyone he worked on the project and made absolutely nothing to earn a little money for their hard work and commitment to this. I don’t blame him and I’m happy to support that!

  5. Whedon’s foray into online [delivery of] media is a great breakthrough for creators; it establishes a business model that believes content is a great marketing tool itself. It can be given away for free, and leveraged into other revenue streams.

    Certainly, this project is a lower-budget project than a traditional TV or movie entity, but it allows him to keep his regular crew of crazy fans appeased. A friend of mine has a t-shirt that says “Joss Whedon is my master now.” He’s going to love this.