The rash of digital NewFront presentations over the past few weeks seems to indicate that there's money in Web video, there's serious money in TV and everybody in digital media wants more. Companies like YouTube and Hulu not only have the visitors, but also the cash to attract top talent and the desire to compete in the entertainment sphere.
Break Media’s Speakeasy, which launched this week, looks to do the same thing on perhaps a smaller scale. The show, which is hosted by comedian Paul F. Tompkins and features Hangover star Zach Galifianakis, is an example of an internally developed, cost-controlled Web foray. Speakeasy features Tompkins enjoying a drink with a single guest, such as Galifianakis or Modern Family's Ty Burrell. The show is tailored to Break Media’s MadeMan audience, focusing on highbrow male culture and making mixology and upscale bar culture a hallmark of the series.
Just days into the show's launch, creator Mitch Rotter (Break's svp of content and former Universal Music Group exec) contends that audience feedback has been solid, though he acknowledges that this sort of content is unchartered territory. “It’s not Field of Dreams,” Rotter said. “Just because we build it doesn’t mean they’ll come, but we have a huge online audience and the expertise in building quality online content.”
Speakeasy has experienced surprisingly few barriers to entry in the marketplace. The show was only conceived in early January and already has 13 episodes completed and an eight-week sponsorship with Bacardi. Each episode cost roughly $5,000 to produce.
While the numbers won’t tell the story on Speakeasy’s success for a few weeks, Rotter hopes more major studios will continue to experiment with original content. “I think studios look at the gamble that they make creating new content and hoping there is an audience. It makes a lot of sense to experiment and introduce concepts in a digital space as costs are lower, feedback is quick and you can get it out in front of a lot of people very fast,” he said.