Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Louis C.K. Comes Back to HBO, but Doesn’t Ditch the Web, Either

Last year Louis C.K. earned the love of the Internet by cutting out the middlemen and selling his comedy special directly to his fans, over the Internet.

Other comedians — and at least one start-up — followed in his footsteps. And C.K. ended up using the Web as a direct sales channel again, both for a concert tour and to help another performer.

But C.K. never promised that he’d stick with the Web exclusively. Good thing, because his next concert special will air first on HBO, sometime next year.

The move might disappoint some digital purists, but it makes plenty of sense for C.K.

He’ll get the money and distribution power that HBO, which boasts some 30 million subscribers in the U.S., can tap into.

And unlike other performers who cut deals with HBO, he’ll hang on to some of the rights: Via Twitter, he says that a “few months” after the special airs on HBO, he’ll sell it again, directly from his site.

The move is probably a bigger departure for HBO, whose subscription model is based on exclusivity. Unless you want to steal it, the only way you can watch “Game of Thrones” is by shelling out for HBO, or waiting up to a year for it to show up on iTunes, DVDs, etc.

Lesson here: Like we said before, just because you can use the Web doesn’t mean you’ll only use the Web. Digital gives C.K. and (some) other performers a new option, but it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition — they can now mix and match distribution strategies. Don’t be shocked if C.K. ends up doing something similar with the likes of Netflix the next time out.

Good for him. And for us.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald