A new television platform that gives viewers the power to greenlight original TV shows launches today with a pilot from filmmaker, actor and comedian Kevin Smith.
Rivit TV provides an online platform for established creators like Smith to screen their passion projects for audiences and solicit pledges to finance the full season. The success of the fundraising campaign determines whether a show enters production.
Smith said he hopes use Rivit TV to breathe new life into Hollyweed, a half-hour stoner workplace comedy set in a Los Angeles cannabis dispensary. It follows two potheads — Smith, in his first major speaking role, an Chappelle’s Show’s Donnell Rawlings — as they navigate the ups and downs of managing a small business in their quest for profits and the perfect bud.
The pilot was shot two and a half years ago on spec, with funding from FremantleMedia and five firms with ties to the cannabis industry, never found a buyer.
“Everything about it was sweet, but nobody wanted it,” Smith said. “So, it sat there.”
Rivit TV’s chief content officer, Marcus Wiley, the former co-head of comedy development at Fox, approached the director with the idea of raising money directly from his fans, without worrying about advertisers or a committee of network executives.
Fans watch a pilot episode on on Rivit TV’s website and decide whether a TV show is worth paying a modest per-episode price (from $1.99 to $5.99) to complete the season. Creators have 45 days to coax fans to support or “greenlight” their projects. If they fail to reach their fundraising goal, no one is charged.
Smith said he was sold.
“If enough people sign up, we get to make more,” Smith said. “Honestly, I think its funny. There have been a few dispensary shows. I’m a weed smoker myself. I feel like there’s space for it. I don’t think the genre is exhausted yet.”
Smith plans to plug Hollyweed during a scheduled Hall H appearance on Saturday, July 21, at Comic-Con.
Rivit TV is the brainchild of Wade Bradley, an entrepreneur who has trades on the Hollywood dream. His last venture, IndieVest, solicited high-net-worth investors to back his film projects. Three investors sued, claiming fraud and negligent misrepresentation and seeking $1.5 million in damages. The case was dismissed after the parties reached an out of court settlement.
“It’s ancient history,” said Bradley of the dispute.
Bradley said he has raised $5 million to back his latest venture, which he said was inspired by the cancelation of Arrested Development. His analysis of the per-episode costs revealed that the show could have turned a profit, if every viewer pledged 45 cents.
“It kicked around for a couple of years,” Bradly said, before he and co-founder Adam Shaw arrived at Rivit TV’s model. “Fans get to watch a pilot of a creator that they absolutely love … The more they pledge, the fewer it takes to have the show greenlit.”
Rounding out the C-suite are Chief Marketing Officer Robin Zucker, who previously served as SVP of marketing at Playboy Enterprises and head of social marketing for Yahoo!; Chief Technology Officer Steve Adler, who previously headed Mobile Technology for the NFL where he developed the NFL Mobile app and digital video delivery for the entire NFL Digital Media Group; and Chief Product Officer Ross Cox, an Emmy award-winning digital product and gaming executive whose background includes stints at NBC Entertainment and Cartoon Network / Adult Swim.