Part of the appeal of any crowdfunding platform is the promise of built-in distribution and audience that comes with a successful fundraising campaign. This is particularly true for independent TV funding platform Mobcaster. The platform was created as a springboard to fund and broadcast pilots and limited-run seasons of new television content that was otherwise not being created in the economically restrictive Hollywood studios.
“Modern storytellers are tapping online audiences to develop their content and exposing [their] slate of programming to the widest audience possible,” says Mobcaster co-founder Aubrey Levy.
Today Mobcaster announced a partnership with DVR services company TIVO for a limited-run airing of its first fully-funded and produced pilot, original comedy “The Weatherman.” The content will be offered to millions of viewers beginning today as a featured suggestion under the on-demand-style “TIVO Central” home screen.
The Australian television project from Dark Heart Productions raised $73,875 or 102 percent of its $72,000 funding goal in March of this year, attracting capital from 103 investors, or “Execs” as they’re called on the platform. The production team then has completed the six episode initial season which could now be distributed via TIVO should the pilot be well received. Critically, because Mobcaster is an incentive-based crowdfunding platform, Dark Heart still owns 100 percent of its content rights.
There is no money changing hands between TIVO and either Weatherman or Mobcaster at this stage, but if all goes well, the DVR company has agreed to pair a brand sponsor with the distribution of the show’s first full season later this fall. Although future Mobcaster projects will need to be evaluated on an individual basis, a Mobcaster representative described the TIVO relationship as “an open door.”
[UPDATE: After publication, Mobcaster revised its statements to clarify the above paragraph, saying, “While money changing hands between TIVO and either Weatherman or Mobcaster is doubtful, the DVR company has historically paired brand sponsors with similar digital content creators and although future Mobcaster projects will need to be evaluated on an individual basis, future distribution opportunities are possible.”]
There have been several other successfully funded Mobcaster projects in the platform’s short history, including a scripted drama starring Andy Dick called Underbelly which raised $5,000 for its pilot episode. Expect each to be watching closely to gain as many insights as possible from the Weatherman’s trailblazing campaign.
Assuming things go well with this initial distribution, The Weatherman will likely pursue additional complementary platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, or even, eventually, broadcast television. “Hearing feedback from TIVO’s extensive audience will be invaluable and we very much look forward to connecting with viewers as we move into production of the first full season of The Weatherman,” says Dark Heart director Lucas Crandles.
While I argued elsewhere that the crowdfunding ecosystem needs contraction and organization, Mobcaster solves a genuine need at every level of the content creation ecosystem. Content producers constantly struggle to find the financing and distribution to bring their creative vision to life. Hollywood studios and TV networks need lower cost, lower risk methods of producing and testing entertainment concepts prior to putting their full resources behind a project. The viewing audience needs and deserves a democratic platform that allows it to influence what content gets produced and distributed.
With its new TIVO partnership, Mobcaster has taken a real step from obscure, hobbyist platform to becoming legitimate path for professional content creators. The existence of this distribution and monetization model means that more production teams may consider crowdfunding their projects not just as a last resort, but as a strategic and viable way to bring their content to a waiting audience of millions.