If there’s a microcosm to be found that sums up all the greatness and the tragedy of independently financed works of art, Louis C.K.‘s Horace and Pete may not be the greatest but is certainly the most timely. In January, C.K. started premiering episodes of Horace and Pete on his website, charging $5 for the first episode, $2 for the second, and $3 for the remaining eight episodes. Though a blazing critical success, the series did not do all that well – when C.K. stopped by Howard Stern‘s show, he admitted to being millions of dollars in debt from the show, which he financed himself and cost in the ballpark of $500,000 per episode.
The good thing about self-financing, however, is that C.K. owns the rights in total. So, when Variety reported this morning that C.K.’s series had shown up on Hulu today, one had to know that whatever Hulu’s deal with C.K. was, he was likely the sole recipient of whatever the streaming giant paid for the series. He also somehow bargained to keep the series up for sale on his website, for the same prices, or a one-time $31 charge for the entire series.
Arguably, C.K. is a special case, in that he is a well-recognized name who can sell himself and his show to Hulu as a brand of sorts. The deal, along with the continued payments from his website, should eat away a sizable amount of the “millions” he told Stern about, but it’s not like C.K. was low on funds elsewhere. Mind you, this is the man who voiced the main character of The Secret Life of Pets, which sits comfortably in fifth place on the list of highest grossing movies of 2016 worldwide. Sure, there’s no guaranteeing he had any back-end money coming but it’s also not like he didn’t make a pretty penny off of that movie. Still, the more mainstream streaming option opens Horace and Pete, the best series of the year by a margin, up to an entirely new audience, which in itself could pave the way for C.K.’s next experiment.