WASHINGTON — After she retweeted messages of support for much of Wednesday — a day after “Roseanne’s” stunning cancellation — Roseanne Barr wrote, “You guys make me feel like fighting back. I will examine all of my options carefully and get back to U.”
One of those options could be a new online streaming startup called Bond. Its chief marketing officer, Michael Caputo, former Trump campaign aide, told Variety that the company is in the process of reaching out to the now-former ABC sitcom star in hopes that she will sign on to the venture.
It’s an indication that Barr — who was not just dropped by ABC but by her talent agency, ICM Partners — will have some options, although not necessarily in traditional media. For a new media venture like Bond (first reported by the Daily Beast), even a star in the midst of controversy and condemnation can help drive attention.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, seeking to acquire Tribune Media, is working on plans to program its cable network WGN America, and a block of primetime programming featuring conservative hosts is under consideration, according to sources.
Caputo said that Bond is aiming at the sweet spot between YouTube and Netflix. The former provides little return for content creators; the latter poses challenges for placement. As he says, it’s aimed at drawing creatives “sick of getting YouTube money, and never getting a Hollywood mogul on the phone.”
It will also rely on a business model based on cryptocurrency and “crowd investing,” in which fans would buy shares in the content, and the creator would get a slice of the subscription proceeds. The co-founders are Den Tolmor, writer of “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” and an Academy Award nominee for documentary feature, and Vlad Lobak, who has explained the venture in a YouTube presentation. A crowdfunding campaign is planned to launch on June 25, Caputo said. As the Daily Beast reported, it’s also being pitched to Russian investors along with conservative sources.
The content of Bond will be aimed at filling the gaps in content ignored by major networks and the “Hollywood gods,” as Caputo calls them, which could include shows that strike a chord in middle America.
“In flyover country, three-fourths of the stuff they put on television is unwatchable,” he said. “Suddenly, we get a ‘Roseanne,’ a show we can enjoy, and then a decision of a Hollywood mogul determines what we can and cannot watch.” He said that the content will not necessarily have a conservative bent, but will try to fill what he sees as an underserved audience.
He’s not condoning the tweet that got Barr’s show canceled: a comment calling former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
“She has admitted it was reprehensible,” Caputo said. “She has expressed regret. But the fact that the Hollywood gods don’t accept that doesn’t mean [her career] needs to end at all.”
He said that he doubted how long she would last on ABC, adding that he thought the mix of Hollywood with someone with “conservative views would always be short-lived. They don’t want to get our dirty shoes on the putting green.”
Caputo has been a familiar face on cable news recently, as he has talked about being questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election.
But he is also a part of broadcast TV lore: A huge fan of the series “Twin Peaks,” he helped lead a pre-internet-era campaign to save the show in 1991 after ABC pulled it off the air. Bob Iger, then the head of ABC and now CEO of the Walt Disney Co., ultimately decided to air the final six episodes, although Caputo does not know the extent to which fan reaction was a factor.
He says this time will be different.
“All of the profits that Bob Iger made from the ‘Roseanne’ reboot will now be hers, because we completely cut out the middleman,” he says.