A new series of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is heading to Netflix in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Here, Elie Dekel, ex-president of Saban Brands and licensing agent for MST3K, explains his licensing plans for the cult brand.
So for those who haven't seen the show, what is Mystery Science Theatre 3000?
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was on Comedy Central for 10 years. They were two-hour episodes featuring robots giving comedic commentary over the worst movies imaginable.
The show follows a human host and his two robot sidekicks aboard the Satellite of Love. The host is forced to watch some of the most outrageously unfortunate B movies ever created and to keep sane, the trio do a running commentary on the films, affectionately mocking their flaws. It developed a cult following, not just with audiences but also with comedians.
Last fall we went on Kickstarter to crowdfund new episodes. We didn’t know what was going to happen. It was an experiment really. We tried to raise $1m for two episodes but in 30 days, we had raised $6.5m and fully funded a whole new season.
We’re now in production for 14 new episodes. We’ve seen a lot of comedians who were inspired by Mystery Science Theatre 3000 getting involved in writing the new episodes. We have this incredible core audience of 50,000 funders. They pledged serious money for episodes that will comes out years hence. It’s mind-blowing that a fan base can create the future of a brand. It’s on that premise that we are re-launching and building a licensing programme around it.
What makes MST3K a brand with multi-category appeal?
Because it’s such a passionate audience. The audience ranges from 18 year olds to 44 year olds. The show has many layers. There’s sketch comedy that relate to the show’s characters, there’s a quirky story involving the mad scientist trapped on the Satellite of Love. It’s goofy but smart and relevant.
In terms of merchandise, we’ve see tremendous interest from the collectors market in the robot characters. We’ve seen interest from robotics firms, comic book publishers and trading card firms. Prop relica companies are also interested. We’re focusing on the collector market, what with the cult following. Building out of the bad movies featured, there’s also merchandising opportunities there.
We see MST3K comics, publishing, replicas, art-based programmes, apparel and accessories.
Where is the new series set to reach territory-wise?
It’s always been a US-based project, although the show did have international reach. As we go into season 11, it will have multi-national distribution via Netflix. We’re doing translation for other markets too.
Are you looking for partners that reflect the cult appeal of the brand?
At Vegas we saw interest from major licensors, so there is a recognition that there is a broad market opportunity here. Not only do we have 50,000 people that paid for more content, but also we have wider a fan base that’s closer to five million and they want more content too.
How has it been moving from Saban Brands to Mystery Science Theatre 3000?
Well, Power Rangers was a mass-market brand but had a very strong core. Part of our approach was always to take care of the core. With Mystery Science Theatre 3000, we’re starting with the core and the core is demanding more. Moving forward we want to nurture the relationship between the fan and the IP.
What there much of a licensing programme around the brand when it was first on screens?
Not a thing. There are some logo driven t-shirts available in specialty markets now but we have a lot to work with and we are just getting started with MST2K.
It’s a unique property that we’re very excited about. By the time the series debuts in January 2017, it will have a broader following.
Check out a full episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 below: