When Louis CK surprised everyone with the release of the first episode of Horace and Pete, it was clear that he was taking the whole “do everything yourself” thing to a whole new level. While he wrote, directed, starred, and edited Louie for FX, this apparently wasn’t quite enough for him. He did absolutely everything himself for Horace and Pete, including putting up his own money and distributing it himself. What that resulted in was a unique, singular show that’s unlike anything else out there. From the very first episode, it was obvious that Louis was doing exactly what Louis wanted to do.
What it also meant, though, was that there was no safety net and no advertising dollars to help make up any shortfall in funds. Even though there were 10 episodes ranging from $2-5 each, Louis revealed on Howard Stern today that he’s massively in debt thanks to Horace and Pete not quite selling the way he expected.
Part of this is the result of Louis’ own reluctance to promote the show in advance. No one even knew it existed until previous subscribers got an email in their inbox one random Saturday morning. As the episodes rolled out every subsequent Saturday, Louis slowly provided more information, first in another email and then in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Even with the spike in downloads that Louis says that Jimmy Kimmel appearance gave him, Louis still had to rely on a line of credit to allow him to finish the show.
Louis told Howard that each episode cost $500,000 to make and that he figured he’d make enough from the first 4 episodes to fund the last 6. After putting up $2 million of his own money for the first 4, though, sales weren’t quite up to par and so he had to turn to a line of credit instead. For someone who is “millions” of dollars in debt, though, Louis doesn’t sound too concerned. It helps that he’s got a plan.
First, he’s going on a media blitz, starting with the Howard Stern interview. Then he’ll appear on Charlie Rose and Jimmy Fallon, among others. After that, he’s going to sell it to a platform (we’re imagining Netflix or Hulu or the like). He figures he’ll make back his money in a few months and we think he’s probably right.
Still, even though it might be streaming for free somewhere soon, we’re glad that we got the experience of downloading it every Saturday and watching it as it unfolded. The lack of advanced advertising might have hurt Louis’ bottom line, but he was right that there was something kind of magical about watching something that you had no idea what to expect.
It might not make financial sense to repeat this experiment, but we hope Louis continues to find other ways to express his creativity and, of course, provide us with entertainment.