OTT Startup Focuses on ‘Hard’ Sci-Fi Fare

Looking to fill what it views as a content gap, a startup called Recursor has booted up over-the-top video service, Recursor.TV, that is focused on short-form, “hard” science fiction fare developed by an array of independent filmmakers and content creators.

The first phase of Recursor’s business centers on a free, ad-supported model tied to the launch of its first original series alongside a mix of curated content. Early on, it will offer a blend of series and shows in subgenres such as military sci-fi, augmented reality, time travel, A.I., post-apocalyptic worlds, alien encounters and cyberpunk noir, that will generally fixate on series that follow a general "ten-by-ten model" -- ten 10-minute episodes.

Recursor’s first original Web series is Nina_Unlocked, billed as a “character-driven interview series” featuring actor, singer and YouTube personality Lana McKissack. She plays an android and “former robotic assassin who lost most of her memory after somehow rebooting herself.” The first three episodes are premiering this fall. The first episode of Nina_Unlocked can be viewed here

The site is already populated by several other short-form titles, including The Raven, a thriller set in an alternate and futuristic Los Angeles; Sputnik, the story about “the evolution of an extraterrestrial mind from Maxim Zhestkov; and Noon, a scene from a completed feature screenplay that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting.

While free and ad-focused is the initial aim (modop is Recursor’s media/advertising partner), it also plans to expand on that business.

“As we evolve and continue to acquire more content and create more content, our roadmap is to become an SVOD [service],” E.J. Kavounas, Recursor’s CEO, said.

Further out, Recursor will also look at developing longer-form sci-fi content that follows more closely to a TV-like format, Kavounas added.

Recursor, he said, is looking to bridge a gap in the sci-fi genre and focus on modern, independently produced sci-fi content, in the vein of shows and series such as The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.

“There’s a lot of excellent sci-fi on TV, and it’s very fragmented,” Kavounas said, citing examples such Syfy, HBO’s Westworld, and series from OTT giants like Netflix and Amazon.

“But it’s not all aggregated in any one place. We think there’s a real need for that, and a really large audience [for it],” he said. In that sense, he’s hopeful that Recursor can do for sci-fi what FunnyOrDie does for comedy, or Crunchyroll is doing for anime.

Recursor is starting off with a Web site, plus presences on other OTT and social platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The site will also allow for easy sharing across those platforms, and will also try to tie into the audience bases of its filmmaking partners. Recursor also plans to support TV-connected devices as well as mobile apps.

Though digital in nature, Kavounas likens Recursor to a “grass-roots” effort, as it will focus on working with “champions in our community.”

Founded last year, Recursor is self-funded by Kavounas  and his two partners on the venture, Edouard de Lachomette and Steve Tao. Recursor might also pursue an angel round in 2017.

“Sci-fi is a personal passion of mine,” Kavounas said.