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Louis C.K. ‘Millions of Dollars’ in Debt Over ‘Horace & Pete’

The big bet that Louis C.K. made on “Horace & Pete” has not paid off.

The comic told radio host Howard Stern on Monday that he lost “millions of dollars” over season 1 of the drama series, which premiered unannounced on his website LouisCK.net in January. Low sales for the first four episodes forced him to take a line of credit out to complete the subsequent six episodes. C.K. claimed that each roughly hour-long episode, which C.K. has sold a la carte for $2-5 a piece, costs about $500,000 to make.

Asked by Stern whether he had sought any outside financial backing for the show, C.K. said, “Nah, I don’t do that.” Instead, he said, he is relying on a publicity push that includes television appearances and an Emmy campaign to drive viewers to the show, and to his website. “I believe that … by the summer, the show will have paid itself off,” he told Stern.

C.K. claimed that he bankrolled production of the first four episodes using $2 million of his own money, leaving him with “no cushion in life,” but counted on making enough through sales of those first four episodes to pay for the rest of the season. Revenue generated from sales of those episodes fell short of expectations.

C.K. did have the opportunity to seek partnership with FX — home to his Emmy-winning comedy series “Louie” — on “Horace & Pete” prior to beginning work on the series. Through his production company Pig Newton, C.K. has a first-look deal with FX Networks and FX Productions. But instead of pursuing a traditional television deal, C.K. asked for and received FX Networks CEO John Landgraf’s blessing to self-produce and distribute the series.

C.K. told Stern that he is open to taking “Horace & Pete” to another platform following its initial run. “I’ll sell it to another outlet — of course I will, down the road,” he said.

Should C.K. take season 1 of “Horace & Pete” to market, the show would not be covered under his first-look deal with FX, a source close to C.K. told Variety — though the network would not be precluded from making a bid. The source added that C.K. is confident that the show will become profitable as it moves from its initial run to later windows.

C.K. is also preparing to introduce a sales option on his site that will allow all episodes of “Horace & Pete” to be purchased in one transaction. Right now, episodes con only be purchased individually.

In addition to “Louie,” whose future remains uncertain while C.K. focuses on other projects, C.K. exec produces three more FX shows — Zach Galifianakis comedy “Baskets,” which the network renewed in February for a second season, and upcoming series “Better Things” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” He also serves as executive producer on Amazon series “One Mississippi” from FX Productions.

“Horace & Pete” stars C.K. and Steve Buscemi as brothers and proprietors of a Brooklyn bar. C.K. released the first episode without any advance notice to the public on Jan. 30.

C.K. submitted the series in March for Emmy consideration as a drama.

UPDATE: A previous version of this article claimed that individual episodes of “Horace & Pete” cost $5. The episodes range in price from $2 to $5.


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