In February, Louis C.K. released Horace and Pete, a web series he funded out of his own pocket. The show, which stars C.K. and Steve Buscemi as the owners of a 100-year-old bar, served as a bold experiment in digital content distribution. In the days leading up to Horace and Pete’s release, C.K. did not promote it at all. To counteract that lack of publicity, he charged his viewers a relatively steep price of $3 per episode.
As it turns out, that math hasn’t worked out so far, and there’s a chance it won’t work out at all. During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show, C.K. revealed that Horace and Pete has left in “in millions of dollars of debt” after it failed to meet sales expectations.
C.K. described the revenue generated by the first four episodes of Horace and Pete as “a nice little amount of money, but that income has not matched the $2 million personal investment the Louie star made in his series in order to get it off the ground. In order to help boost sales, he has begun undertaking the promotional tour he eschewed before Horace and Pete’s release. An appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live provided a much-needed shot of adrenaline, and CK plans to raise further awareness of his show by joining Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
Perhaps C.K. always figured he would be likely to end up in the red on Horace and Pete. After all, this is a man who owns a yacht; he can clearly afford to take a loss of two. That being said, the degree to which the series has failed to recoup its costs is indicative of the importance of promotion. In an era where consumers can choose from a seemingly boundless selection of TV shows and web series, they have less incentive to seek out under-the-radar gems like Horace and Pete.
Should C.K. promote Horace and Pete vigorously enough, the show can still bring in a hefty chunk of change. If you’d like to check it out, head over to C.K.’s personal website, where ten individual episodes are available for a la carte purchase.