30West, the investment and advisory firm with deep ties to the movie business, is backing Special, a new streaming service geared towards independent moviemakers and content creators. The platform, which had its beta launch last week, was co-founded by Sam Lucas and Paul Burton, who previously built custom video on-demand platforms through their former business, Triple Tree Software.
Former CEO of NBC Universal, Steve Burke and film producer and venture capitalist David Fialkow of General Catalyst are also early investors in Special. The company secured funding for the venture in spring of 2020 through a $2.3 million series seed round led by Next Frontier Capital. Special lets content producers publish their work on a streaming platform and establish a monthly subscription price to enable fans to access their work. The company manages the back-end work, as well as collects revenues from users.
“There is an obvious, growing need for more innovation across the film and television landscape, particularly in the areas of marketing and distribution,” 30West said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to support Special in advancing their vision for empowering artists and distributors with technology which addresses this need.”
30West also owns significant stakes in film production and distribution studios Neon and Altitude. It has packaged and financed several feature and television projects, including the Mindy Kaling comedy “Late Night” and this summer’s Netflix water-cooler sensation “Tiger King.” 30West also produced and financed Kevin Macdonald’s “The Mauritanian,” starring Jodie Foster, which STXfilms will release early next year for awards consideration. The company is in post-production on “Violence of Action” starring Chris Pine and directed by Tarik Saleh.
Special allows filmmakers and content creators who may not otherwise have access to major media buyers or streaming platforms like Netflix to have the ability to distribute and stream their work, while granting them control over everything from how much they charge for access to when their programming is released. The company is launching as COVID-19 has upended the theatrical distribution landscape and pushed more customers online. Due to that disruption, the streaming video on-demand industry is expected to exceed $50 billion in global revenue this year and boast 880 million current viewers. Consumption is expected to reach 1.3 billion viewers and $85 billion in global revenues by 2025.
Special has granted private beta access to over 1,000 independent studios, filmmakers, and video creators testing the platform before its formal launch. Publishers on the platform retain full ownership of their media properties and the service is free of exclusive licensing contracts and advertisers.