Whedon to Pioneer New Distribution Model

Joss Whedon’s upcoming writers’ strike-inspired web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, is the closest thing to a sure hit online, even if it is going to be a musical (hey, that’s just unusual — not bad!). Turns out Whedon has a pretty interesting plan for pleasing fans, making a big impact, and perhaps making a bit of money, too.

The plan (which was first posted as a comment on a fan site, I believe) is to release the three parts of the 42-minute project on July 15, July 17 and July 19 respectively, for free. But at midnight on July 20, “They will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.),” as Whedon put it. After that, the whole thing will be available for purchase.

I like it! A way to have scarcity without signing some exclusive deal with a portal whose audience isn’t necessarily your fan base. A way to get everyone in the same place, buzzing about what you’re doing without depending on outside promotion. Hey, maybe it’s something only Whedon could do, but it’ll be exciting to watch it play out.

The ultimate goal is to make a DVD, Whedon told TVGuide.com, which got an exclusive preview of the series (and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up). And boy does this sound good:

“We’re already working on some of the DVD extras, which are going to be the finest in all the land. We’re actually going to do, in addition to the commentary, what we refer to as ‘commentary with an exclamation point’! A musical commentary that is a completely original musical, that is all commentary songs, and we’re writing that now… We’re just piling it on. We’re like, we’re going to make more fun of the idea of extras than anything else.”

I love that instead of manipulating the system in tired ways to find an audience and make money, Whedon just makes more one-of-a-kind content. While he does sound earnest in the TVGuide interview about proving there’s another way to make good stuff that’s cheaper but not too cheap, Whedon of course follows with levity: “Maybe… it can make us an eleven-ty kadillion dollars. Or maybe it won’t.”