Louis C.K. was aiming to cut the networks out of the equation when he announced he would release his latest special on his website only, and it appears he's succeeded -- and profited.
In a post on his site last night, the comedian and star of the FX series "Louie" reported he had raked in $500,000 from 110,000 purchases of "Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater" amounting to $200,000 in profit once production costs, website construction and fees to PayPal were subtracted. The hour-long special costs $5 for two downloads and two streams of the performance.
A prolific comedian who refreshes his material every year, Louis C.K. has had specials aired on HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central, and he noted that he could have earned more had he gone the traditional route and taken his talents to a network, but they would have restricted international availability and collected users' private data.
"This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video," he wrote.
He announced that he considered the project a successful experiment thus far and would plan to keep it going with future sales.
"If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that I can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I'll do it here, and I'll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction," he wrote.
As for networks cut out of the loop, HBO declined to comment directly, but a spokesman noted that the network has scaled back its comedy programming in recent years. (Louis C.K.'s first hour-long special, "Shameless," aired on the network in 2007.) Comedy Central didn't respond to a request for comment.