Lamprey Kick-Starts Nat Geo’s ‘Chug’

Zane Lamprey has fashioned a TV career out of traveling and drinking. His first show, Three Sheets, was popular enough to have found a home on several cable channels. His new show, the globe-hopping Chug, debuts on National Geographic Channel on Monday, Nov. 24, at 10:30 p.m. Lamprey raised startup cash for the new project on crowd-funding site Kickstarter. But, as he told Multichannel News executive editor Kent Gibbons, it wasn’t quite enough. This interview was edited for content and space.

MCN: You raised $591,000 for your new show,Chug, on Kickstarter. What were you able to pay for with that?

Zane Lamprey: Not as much as I would have liked to. [Laughs.] We raised $591,000 to make six episodes of TV. We gave Kickstarter 5%. The credit-card fees take another about 5%. Our fulfillment — hoodies and T-shirts and posters, DVDs and all that kind of stuff — came to a pretty astounding fee, somewhere around $175,000. Then we had the rest to work with as far as making the show, somewhere around $300,000. I had to kick some in, a bunch actually, to make the show what it turned out to be. And I have no regrets. The whole Kickstarter experience was scary, and digging into my pockets is scary, but at the end of the day, regardless of what happens, I am proud of what people will get to see.

MCN: Other than having loyal fans and good giveaways, what are the key elements of crowd-funding a new TV show?

ZL: It’s having a product that people want. And more so, it’s a product that people want people to know that they want. It needs to be something that, for lack of a better term, needs to be cool, needs to be buzz-worthy.

One that I invested in in the past, that I backed, was a glow-in-the-dark plant. The one that I’m launching in the next week or two is the drinking hoodie. The zipper is a bottle opener, there’s a pocket on the front that is a coozie pocket that collapses and it has a flask pocket on the inside. The cups are drinking gloves. That kind of stuff.

It’s also the delivery of your message and presenting your video. I’ve seen a lot of decent products that have inferior videos, and they don’t do well. I’ve seen projects for TV shows and movies, and the video talking about how great their video is going to be is not a good video. If you’re selling a TV show, you’d better make sure your video is good.

MCN: How different willChugbe fromThree SheetsorDrinking Made Easy?

ZL:Three Sheets was traveling around the world, learning about drinking cultures by drinking with the locals. Drinking Made Easy was the same thing, but with a lower budget and inside the U.S. Chug is back to international. Like Three Sheets, it had me; like Three Sheets, it had executive producer Mike Kelly, who co-executive produced this project with me. And I’m going around, doing a similar thing.

We did want to make it a different show, and so the commonality of every episode, besides drinking, is a day trip on a train to justify the name of the show. And we are not covering hangover segments in the show. In all my episodes of Three Sheets, I didn’t find one that necessarily worked. That also allows us to cover an additional drinking segment, or not get out of segments so quickly.

MCN: DidThree Sheetsset a record for revivals on the most networks?

ZL: Well, it started out on INHD, and INHD then rebranded as Mojo, and then [the show] went to Fine Living and then it went to Travel and then it went to Spike. Aside from syndication, I would say that’s a really safe bet to say that.

MCN: What did you learn from the experience of having a show that bounced around that way?

ZL: I learned too much to even put into a phrase. I had moved out here [to Los Angeles] and was just doing whatever I could do to make it in this crazy entertainment business. And I got that show and hadn’t even heard of INHD. I hadn’t even heard of the channel that my show was on. But I didn’t care. It gave me a chance to go out there and do it. And then every time the network folded, I learned more about marketing and social media and running my own business.