Sherman Oaks TV Series Creator Minting Brave New Distribution Model

There are number of remarkable things to note about Jon Hotchkiss’ science-experiment TV series This vs. That: he turned down deals with a couple of U.S. networks in favor of funding the program himself; he edits on a pair of Avids in his Sherman Oaks garage; and his triumvirate of male hosts connects to everything from Improv comedy to the old FOX game show Studs.

But most remarkable of all is the fact that Hotchkiss has already sold his first batch of six one-hour episodes to TV channels in a dozen countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Israel among them). With the program now set to make its unconventional U.S. debut.

“I’m likely going to go with Vimeo in January,” Hotchkiss tells FishbowlLA via telephone of his American roll out plans. “They have a new platform that allows content creators to set their own price. And they are taking 50% less money than iTunes.”

“I’m still figuring out pricing, but what I’m thinking is something like giving the first part of each episode for nothing and then, if viewers want to see the rest, they can pay a dollar or two. For people like me to get original content out that is at the same level of what would be on a TV network, consumers have to pay something. But the good news is that it doesn’t need to be a lot.”

Guided by Mark DeCarlo, Brad Sherwood (pictured below with Hotchkiss) and Chris Tallman, each This vs. That experiment (two per episode) breaks down a household-consumer focused topic into a side-by-side comparison of two alternate solutions. Although some have compared the program to Discovery’s smash hit Mythbusters, Hotchkiss emphasizes that all of his topics are real-world anchored. Nothing fictitious or fanciful, but rather things like natural gas vs. propane and the fastest way to board people onto a commercial airliner (front vs. back).

Hotchkiss suggests that some of the experiments also could present a problem for backers of the old ad-supported U.S. TV model. “Toyota for example might not be too happy with a This vs. That determination that the Prius is a poor choice for highway driving and is actually only optimal only for those doing 35-40 miles per hour in the city.”

The airplane boarding segment got a nice mention on the October 31 edition of NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams. With the nation’s appetite for Mythbusters-like entertainment seemingly bottomless, Hotchkiss seems poised for successful Vimeo expansion.

As such, the Emmy-nominated TV vet whose credits include two years as showrunner for Penn & Teller: Bullshit is looking forward to reaping the next level of rewards. “I worked nearly every day for a year and a half without a day off on This vs. That,” he says. “And the reason I was able to do it the way I have is because the tools to make TV are now very affordable.”

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.
Publish date: December 3, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT