And we were just getting into it! Riese, the steampunk-infused fantasy web series drama that has been unfolding online since its launch back in November, has been pulled down due to request from its new distribution partner Fireworks, the digital distribution arm of UK-based ContentFilm. The series had just begun Chapter 2 this week, releasing its six episode before the takedown occurred earlier today. This is the same firm that had picked up international distribution rights for recent web series like MTV New Media’s college mystery Valemont and Endemol UK’s sci-fi thriller Kirill.
Just trailers are left online on their YouTube channel and on KoldCast TV, which was the primary online network distributing the series. No word at this point when or if the series will return to the internet.
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An excerpt from a blog post today by creators Ryan Kopple and Kaleena Kiff explaining the takedown (emphasis added):
We also recently partnered with Fireworks, a digital distribution branch of ContentFilm, based out of the UK. They’re largely responsible for the transition of the webseries Valemont from internet to television, and they handle a number of many other well-known webseries as well.
What does this mean for Riese? It opens up a number of opportunities. For one, it increases the chances that we can keep making this show and letting you become further involved in the world of Riese. Additionally, it boosts the possibility of us being able to distribute the series on other platforms (episode downloads, DVDs, and television).
Now, for the bad news. While Fireworks is negotiating deals on our behalf, we’ve had to remove our episodes from online streaming. We’re not happy about it by any means – we want all of our fans to enjoy Riese whenever they want – but we also understand that it’s a necessary move in order to keep a project like Riese afloat. The few of us that are responsible for producing Riese on a day-to-day basis are realistic that we cannot sustain it without the support of Fireworks and our viewers.
We hope to have everything back up as soon as possible, and we’ll keep everyone posted as we move forward. I know a lot of people will be bummed out, but just know that this slight delay could mean a whole new future for Riese. We don’t want to disappoint you all, but I know you’d be even more disappointed if we left the rest of this epic tale untold.
So far fans seem to be supportive of the move on based on comments on a fan Live Journal community, with most saying they are bummed but wish the best for the creators. One fan wrote: “While I am a bit bummed that the episodes have been taken down, as I was JUST about to rewatch them, I’m also UBER excited about the new opportunities this will open up for this franchise! I will be eagerly awaiting the return of Riese and hopefully you guys will have inked a deal for iTunes distribution, so I can buy a season pass!”
We reached out to KoldCast TV CEO David Samuels, who is a big supporter (and web distributor) of the series:
When KoldCast TV licensed Riese, a top-notch series, only KoldCast and YouTube distributed it and we were thrilled to be working with Ryan Copple. We worked very hard to introduce the series to our international audience which is now in 138 countries. As is the case in our industry, we monetized the series through pre-roll ads which, at this time in our space, does not fully monetize any individual programming, whether at KoldCast TV or any other distribution platform. When Ryan reached out to us to share the basic details of the new opportunity that landed on his plate, we learned that foreign rights were a material component of the opportunity. At this time, KoldCast does not geo block our Network programming, making it impossible for Riese to close their proposed deal. Nonetheless, Ryan gave us the opportunity to complete the remaining term of our two-year licensing agreement. If we had done so, we would have stood in the way of a genuine opportunity for the show to have a shot at generating greater revenues in foreign markets. While legally entitled to do so, we told Ryan that such a decision was contrary to our support of filmmakers around the world and that we would step aside in support of the show. Though painful to give up such a great series, it was the right thing to do for Ryan and all those who have worked so hard to achieve their dream. It goes without saying, we wish them the best of luck and we will still be big fans.
Really, this kind of shoots the series in the foot here, stranding the core online fan community that helped garner the series its early support. Sure, this was by most accounts not an inexpensive production—with the budget estimated around $200,000 for the indie series—and seeking paid international distribution options makes business sense. But in terms of fan strategy this just seems careless. Online entertainment has proven an effective launching pad for concepts, storylines and talent precisely because of that early dedicated fan support. Suffocating that community and throwing into a digital catalog for the rest of the year could prove to be an expensive mistake. Here’s to hoping they get them back online shortly.