What do stand-up comic Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass, host of NPR’s “This American Life,” have in common? The duo were instrumental in helping Bedrocket Media Ventures snag $15 million in funding from investment capital group New Enterprise Associates.
Bedrocket, a 30-employee-strong NYC startup, executive-produced Birbiglia and Glass’ indie-film, “Sleepwalk With Me,” to a $70,000 single screen viewing. The figure by the little film that could actually bested writer/director Joss Whedon’s previous record, set by 2012’s juggernaut, “The Avengers.” The action didn’t go unnoticed by Whedon, who took to his vlog to jokingly lament this fact.
In turn, the strong presence from the film, accompanied by Bedrocket’s investments in independent video production companies VHX and Fullscreen, persuaded investors that Bedrocket was a company with a future. A joint venture with interactive design firm Interlude.fm — an offshoot they’re calling Bedrocket Interlude Media — didn’t hurt either.
Founded by Brian Bedrol and Ken Lerer in 2012, the company eschews the role of traditional media in favor of the burgeoning power of social media. “Bedrocket knows the value of content in a multiplatform world. We have a simple but revolutionary goal: to provide high-quality, low cost programming across screens,” Bedol said in a release from his website. “The old order – with its big, high-cost studios and gatekeepers – is crumbling, and the future belongs to nimble content creators who can take advantage of the seismic changes happening in the industry. We see a unique opportunity to become ‘cable in the cloud.’
Bedrol, who serves as Bedrocket’s President and CEO, is a former television executive and creator of the Classic Sports Network, which he later sold to ESPN who rebranded it as ESPN Classics. His business partner, Lerer is an entrepreneur and a co-founder of the Huffington Post.
In addition to their maverick approach to film-marketing, Bedrocket has also become a web channel producer, launching four shows on YouTube, including “Look TV,” “Official Comedy,” and their action sports channel, “Network_A.”
“Sleepwalk With Me,” which was produced by Glass and written, directed, and starring Birbiglia, is a small-budget meditation on the real-life hardships that comprise a stand-up comedian’s act. Largely autobiographical in scope, according to Birbiglia, it was aided in its success by the 581,000 Facebook followers of “This American Life” and Birbiglia’s 166,000 Twitter followers. Off it’s single-screen showing, the film posted the highest opening weekend in the history of New York’s IFC Center. Now, such is the involvement of the fans in its grassroots media campaign that “Sleepwalk With Me” has now been granted a national opening — no small feat for a film relying on zero exposure from expensive television advertising.
There is no news yet of whether the $15 million will go towards expanding Bedrocket’s online channel lineup or even what their follow-up film to “Sleepwalk With Me” will be, but it is likely going to be a much tougher sell without the social media excitement of a Joss Whedon-involved catfight to back it up.