Joss Whedon says Doctor Horrible is one of his most profitable projects
In Forbes magazine, Joss Whedon reveals Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog — an internet musical he made in 2008 with Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon and Zack Whedon — has made over $3 million in revenue, and “is in terms of percentages is far and away the most profitable thing I’ve ever done”.
The investment he made in the project – written during the Writers Strike of 2007 – was $200k. The project was filmed and released shortly afterwards, streamed for free on the internet on a custom built site for the project. The project itself had no publicity budget, relying on casting familiar genre actors with fan followings, combined with word of mouth between Joss Whedon’s fan base. After a brief free streaming window, the project was released exclusively on DVD and – eventually – Blu-Ray. The producers then rolled out a downloadable soundtrack and a musical commentary. If this had been a Big Media project, somebody at the studio would have been crawling over this pitch with a red pen, furiously crossing everything out.
Cut to several years later, where the project has licensed stage productions, a licensed book, licensed comic books, licensed shirts… and $3m in profits to the creators, which continues to grow by the day. In interviews, it is the project Joss Whedon and the cast are near constantly asked about, despite many being known for big studio productions.
Ask anybody at a major studio about the internet, and they will tell you it is not possible to monetise it. They are wrong. The problem is doing something good, doing it smart, and thinking differently. The Internet is still in black and white – it’s the early TV days of the platform. There are no rules yet. You do not have to upload everything to YouTube, nor does it have to be 2 minutes long. The rules are there to be made.
In response to Doctor Horrible, in 2009 Fox launched a company (Fox Digital Studio) to enable corporations to brand their products into internet shows. They specifically mentioned the format and success of Doctor Horror in their launch press release, and talked about Joss Whedon’s “aspirational model” with Doctor Horrible. Cut to 2012, where they have a Facebook page with 77 users, a picture of an exposed ass, and a web series on MySpace (remember that?) produced with Taco Bell. We struggled to find information on the series, “Let’s Big Happy”. Upon looking on MySpace, I realised the series has 90 subscribers.
Back to Doctor Horrible: $200k to $3m. The most sensible, profitable investment Joss Whedon – director of indy flick ‘The Avengers’ – has made. The Internet. Make the rules. Let’s get to work.