The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

That would be Dave Chappelle, star of "Chappelle's Show". Comedy Central has inked Chappelle to an additional two years of the show, plus a big cut of DVD sales and other incentives that could net the star about $50 million.

So I guess Chappelle's admonition back in June that the show was "ruining his life" goes out the window. (For those who haven't figured it out yet: That was part of his negotiating tactic. Chappelle himself will tell you, don't believe anything celebrities say!)

The Reuters account of the deal is valuable, because it includes so much background info on how things work in the entertainment industry:
Increasing the pressure on Comedy to close a megadeal with Chappelle was interest from other programers eager to tap his talents, including NBC Universal Television Group, according to sources, which ultimately deemed Chappelle too expensive. FX is said to have made an eight-figure offer to lure Chappelle to the network, but to no avail.

The deal also has implications beyond Comedy for Chappelle within the network's parent company, Viacom, sources said. Another component sets up Chappelle with a multimillion-dollar deal at Paramount Pictures to star in an adaptation of the autobiography of Rick James, the funk veteran whom Chappelle has lampooned on "Chappelle's Show." He may also be tapped for a different film project.

In addition, the contract is said to establish a development deal for Chappelle's production company, Pilot Boy Prods., with managing principal Mustafa Abuelhija. The pair already has a project under consideration at Comedy featuring "Chappelle's Show" contributor Paul Mooney.
Paul Mooney getting his own show? That's probably the best thing to come out of all this!

As I alluded, the DVD component is probably the biggest piece of this pie, and what's really making Chappelle smile:
Chappelle's original deal reaped barely a fraction of DVD revenues -- a source of frustration to the comedian as his second one-year deal with Comedy expired. The new deal cuts Chappelle not only a larger portion of DVD sales -- including retroactively to the first and second seasons -- but revenue from merchandising and events as well.

As DVD becomes an increasingly lucrative revenue stream for networks and studios, the format is taking a place next to syndication as a crucial deal point for profit participants. In HBO's contentious renegotiation with "The Sopranos" star James Gandolfini last year, DVD also emerged as a thorny issue.

Combining Chappelle's DVD take with his per-episode salary (estimated to be in the low-middle six figures) puts him in the league of Gandolfini and fellow Comedy executive producers Matt Stone and Trey Parker of "South Park." He is also slated to partake of a syndication sale of "Chappelle's Show," which may be a remote possibility given the series' raunchy content.
The aftermarket impact of DVD sales is huge, getting huger. It's quite a contrast from the VHS era, when tapes were never priced low enough to make them viable mass consumer items. What's more, the digitized content on those discs can be ripped relatively easily onto other storage media (backup discs, hard drives, etc.), so in theory a DVD purchase could have a very long shelf life.

But I digress...

I'm glad "Chappelle's Show" will still be around. I happen to be in that demographic sweet spot that the show attracts. I can't say I watch it religiously, but it's definitely one of the increasingly few shows that I'll sit down to watch. It could do with less scatological material, but overall is good for a few laughs. I'm not sure it can ever top the "I'm Rick James, bitch!" skit, though...