Nebula, which launched in 2019, describes itself as a creator-focused, creator-built, creator-first premium streaming service — akin to a Netflix or Hulu, but with the ethos of Patreon. The four-year-old indie streaming service, which is backed by creator-owned management company Standard and a minority stake held by Curiosity Stream, costs $5 a month or $50 a year and currently totals 650,000 subscribers and passed 100,000 daily active users in October.
The platform is home to the popular “Amazing Race”-style online competition series, “Jet Lag: The Game,” which has half a million subscribers on YouTube, as well as the theater-in-the-round Shakespearian trans-coming-out story of “The Prince,” and “Night of the Coconut,” the debut film from Patrick Willems.
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Unlike other streamers, Nebula sees YouTube as a partner, not a competitor, with episodes of Nebula series usually seeing a week-long exclusive window on Nebula before creators post them to YouTube and use them to in turn promote Nebula, according to Standard CEO Dave Wiskus.
“It’s easy to think that what we’re building is a YouTube competitor,” Wiskus told Variety on this week’s “Strictly Business” podcast. “And if you imagine it as a YouTube competitor, it’s easy to think that anything we do, from any creator we work with, the goal should be for it to be exclusively on Nebula. What we’re really building is a Netflix competitor and the path we’re going to have to take to get there, YouTube is our biggest partner. YouTube is our closest ally. YouTube is the top of the funnel for us, we’re just a little bit further down.”
And “much maligned” as the YouTube algorithm might be, Wiskus, a former human interface designer for iOS apps, says it’s Nebula’s “greatest champion” with audiences.
“It’s out there finding new fans for us, it’s out there finding new people who loves the things that our creators make,” Wiskus said. “And so we’ve designed our system, our entire business model around leveraging that to bring those fans to us. How often do you get a mega corporation building you a free machine to bring you audience? Of course you want to take advantage of that.”
While Wiskus says it’s “entirely possible” that shows become exclusive to Nebula someday — and already are with some creators, like Lindsay Ellis — those choices are completely up to the creators and not a mandate Nebula is looking to enforce in an attempt to boost subscribers.
“We’re not like Thanos out there grabbing all the Infinity Stones. The goal, rather, is to build a bridge,” Wiskus said. “I want to occupy a much more A24-style space where we work with the creators and we help them make the things that they want to make.”
Nebula is currently producing creator Jessie Earl’s large-budget, short-film directorial debut, which Wiskus says offers the filmmaker the “structure that can help her become successful” as a bigger director, as she already has “the skill and the ambition” necessary for the job.
“For most people on YouTube, it usually comes down to connections, funding and experience. So what we’re trying to do with Nebula is build a system that can provide the connections, the funding and the experience and build a bridge,” Wiskus said. “So not everything has to be exclusive here. I would love it if we could live in a world where Jessie or other filmmakers we work with, Patrick Willems, start making movies that go to a wide theatrical release and there’s some segment of the audience where the only thing they know Nebula as is the stinger that comes up before the movie starts, the same way that you would see an A24 logo or the Skydance logo, Amblin Entertainment.”
Wiskus says the closest analog for what he wants to create is if A24 had its own streamer. “You can see ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ on any of the streamer — but if you go to A24’s, you can see all of their productions. That’s kind of how we’re thinking about it.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud and more.
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