As the idea of straight-to-streaming video has become a fairly common idea among Hollywood studios — at least as an “experiment” — Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) is refining its strategy around its recently-introduced animated Hulu series, Trailer Trash. It believes it has been able to craft a business model around video “now,” not down for some time down the road.
The show is entering its third week on Hulu and represents Lionsgate’s first foray into web series production. The show comes on the heels of Jon Chu’s The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers for Paramount Digital.
In the case of Trailer Trash — it’s kind of like Squidbillies, but with slightly more human looking characters — the idea is that animation is pretty popular for online viewing. Plus, it doesn’t cost as much as live action to produce.
We were looking for the right time to jump into the internet production side of the business,” Curt Marvis, president of digital media, Lionsgate. “We felt we could produce original, high quality content, similar that we could do for TV. That was one box we checked off when deciding to do this. Another box was whether it could be produced cost effectively. We were looking at this as an exercise to make money, not an experiment.”
One of the reasons it went with Hulu was that the video site would handle ad sales, something Lionsgate didn’t want to have to worry about. Another reason it went with Hulu had to do with the sense that animated shorts tend to do well on the site, Marvis said, noting that Family Guy and American Dad are often at the top of the most-viewed list.
The series, created by Todd Goldman, has 24 episodes in total, with 16 committed to being aired on Hulu exclusively. Lionsgate hasn’t mapped out the post-Hulu distribution plan yet, Marvis said. But it will go out broadly, he said. There is also the possibility that Trailer Trash could eventually make its way to TV.
In the meantime, the studio is looking for other series to produce for streaming first. “We’re not necessarily looking for animation,” Marvis said. “Lionsgate has always been associated with edgy, left-of-center, daring, un-traditional types of programming, like Weeds and Mad Men. We felt Trailer Trash was in line with our thinking and style. I think it’s fair to say that the next thing that comes along will fit that mold as well.”
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