Instead, LDN’s Alpha, slated to launch later in 2016, will deliver a stream of live, interactive programming designed to let fans literally become part of the shows, centered on the two brands’ roots in geek and popular-culture content. The service will let subscribers interact with each other as well as with the shows’ personalities and content using features like chat and polling, and also will give viewers the chance to appear live on-screen during webcasts.
In addition to the interactive content, Alpha members will receive VIP event access, prizes, discounts on merchandise, bonus podcasts and other perks.
“We’re trying to figure out a new form of entertainment that gets your fanbase highly involved and immersed in it,” said LDN president Adam Rymer.
To Rymer, most subscription VOD services simply feel “like TV on the Internet,” without any innovative community or social features. “You’re missing the usefulness of the devices people are using to watch these shows. These things have cameras and keyboards,” he said.
Moreover, Rymer added, conventional SVOD “is a very crowded marketplace. Competing with Netflix is not a good idea unless you have unlimited amounts of cash.”
Both Nerdist, founded by Chris Hardwick, and Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry have experimented with live viewer interaction. Geek & Sundry recently launched “GnSLive” on Twitch that provides of 30 hours of live content every week, and the channel now has 19,000 paying customers. “What really pushed us (to launch Alpha) was seeing the engagement of fans after we launched Geek & Sundry on Twitch,” Rymer said.
Nerdist founder and CEO Hardwick hosts Comedy Central’s “@midnight,” which encourages live viewer participation on Twitter. The strategy behind Alpha is to create a more compelling experience than just putting genre-style content behind a paywall, he said. “While scripted and interactive video will be just one component of Alpha, we are setting out to make this more of a holistic membership experience that will feel like a community clubhouse,” Hardwick said. “We want it to be special and have real, justifiable value for members… Alpha is about partnering people we love to create a safe space for fandom and the people who are passionate about it.”
Added Felicia Day: “I’m thrilled to have Geek & Sundry unified with Nerdist under this innovative new platform that provides an environment for fans to celebrate the things they love in a way not seen before.”
LDN has not set pricing for Alpha, but Rymer said it will be in the range of $3-$6 per month. The Legendary Entertainment division is targeting launch at the end of Q3 or early Q4, initially available on the web and Apple iOS devices.
Alpha will deliver 6-8 hours of programming each weekday, with some programming over the weekend, and all live content also will be available on-demand after broadcast. Content in development include talk-show formats, live watch-alongs of TV shows and movies with celebrity guests, game shows with members as the contestants, and scripted offerings where the audience can vote on the outcome. Content for Alpha will be produced at LDN’s studio in Burbank, Calif.
“We think of it as CVOD — community VOD,” said Rymer. “The goal is for people to actually want to log in and see what’s happening (live)… We might even find there’s an audience member who actually becomes a regular host of some kind.”
LDN is creating its own interactive-video technology with Alpha because “we didn’t want to find ourselves at the mercy of other platforms,” Rymer said. The company may choose to simulcast the programming on YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Twitch or other services — but only paying customers would have access to the interactive features on the Alpha channels.
LDN’s network also includes Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls online community for teen femmes, but that will not be part of the Alpha platform because Smart Girls caters to a different demo, Rymer said: “Alpha is serving a geek and nerd fanbase.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story, based on information from Legendary Digital Networks, said that Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick and Geek & Sundry’s Felicia Day were set to host shows on Alpha; however, according to a rep, they have not been confirmed as hosts for the service.