When Louis C.K. sold his self-produced special Live At The Beacon Theater on his own website for five dollars, he didn’t set out to change the distribution model for comedy. In fact, his next special Oh My God premiered on HBO (though it will go up for sale in the same form as Beacon in September). But that release strategy—and its million-dollar profit in less than two weeks—significantly influenced other comedians. Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan tried the same approach with their own specials, and now Comedy Central is taking the experiment and turning it into a full paradigm shift.
Today marks the launch of CC: Stand-Up Direct, where many Comedy Central specials are now available to download for a mere five dollars. One-hour performances from John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Anthony Jeselnik, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, Kyle Kinane, and others are available to stream and for DRM-free download in uncut and uncensored formats. Stand-Up Direct aims to offer a wider range of comedians to consumers, though it's at the cost of taking a huge chunk of the revenue (because the corporate comedy overlords will not stand idly by while Louis C.K. takes all the direct-download money). Still, seeing as not everyone can afford to strike out on their own like C.K, this enables them to have potentially much broader exposure. And if it’s a success, Comedy Central certainly has a sizable archive of Comedy Central Presents and Premium Blend episodes to comb for hidden gems.