Case study: How comedian Louis C.K. made $1m from own-brand video download site

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cslouisck.jpg At the end of 2011, US comedian Louis C.K. cut out TV networks and video sharing sites by selling his latest comedy special online direct to fans. This case study shows how he made $1m from the venture in just 1 month (and then gave half of the revenue away).

More on this case study:
Brand: Louis C.K. | Media: Video, Social Media | Country: US | Sector: Entertainment / Media

Louis C.K. recently sold on online video of his latest show Live at the Beacon Theater for $5, directly to fans. The download was straight from his site via Paypal, and totally financed by the comedian. The site included a note asking people please not to pirate it. It went on sale December 9.

"People told me everyone's gonna steal it," he told Jimmy Fallon. "So I just wrote a note that said please don't do that ... And they didn't."

Within 3 weeks, C.K. sold the special to about 220,000 people. He then announced that he had made a million and what he was going to do with the money. He even has a picture of his PayPal account showing the balance.

After announcing the windfall, Louis C.K. announced plans to give $280,000 to charities. They include the Fistula Foundation, which helps battered women; Green Chimneys, which works with children and animals; the Pablove Foundation, which help children with cancer, Charity: Water, which provides clean drinking water; and Kiva, which gives microloans. He will also pay out $250,000 in bonuses to staff.

Besides the more than half a million dollars for his staff and charities, he paid about $250,000 in production costs. He said he decided to give much of the money away because "I've never had a million dollars all at once ... I felt uncomfortable about having that much money."

The remaining 220k will be his. “Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my children,” C.K. added. “The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.”

Here's some vital stats behind the campaign:

Production Cost: $250,000
Marketing Budget: Unknown
Fan base: 200,000 minimum of paying fans and counting, unknown non-paying (maybe 5x?)
Type of Program: Event based
Website budget: $32,000

Watch the trailer here (WARNING: Language used is not safe for work):


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