The comic Louis CK has a dedicated following due to his television show and awesome rant about Wi-Fi on airplanes. So, with his latest comedy special, he decided to route around the established video distribution players and go direct to his audience on the web. He released a video of his work without any kind of restrictions (i.e. DRM). You pay $5 and you get a video file to do with what you will.
The experiment has been a resounding success. When The New York Times' David Carr spoke with him late last week, he already had sold 175,000 copies of the show. "He expected 200,000 total downloads by the weekend, which meant he would have grossed $1 million," Carr wrote. "After covering costs of about $250,000 for the live production and the Web site, that's a $750,000 profit."
Clearly, not everyone is Louis CK. Without an established fan base, it can be very difficult to drive visitors to a given website and get them to give away their payment details. But, the success reminds us of a key factor about the Internet. Here's how he put it:
"O.K., so NBC is this huge company and they have all these studios and these satellites to beam stuff out, but on the Web, both NBC.com and LouisCK.com have the same amount of bandwidth. We are equals and there are things you can do with that.
That is to say, the infrastructure of the Internet means that you can create an entirely new distribution channel nearly instantly that everyone in the world can access. It's not perfect for everything, but "there are things you can do with that."