What is Ricky Gervais so embarrassed about?

The great thing about blogging is that every now and then, someone picks up on something you write, and sends you some juicy follow-up. Some very interesting information has fallen into my lap regarding the world’s number one podcast, The Ricky Gervais Show, which casts a slightly distasteful shadow over it all. All I can say is, it comes from a very well-placed source.
From the very beginning, the project’s key word, in many senses, was ‘free’. Creative freedom for Gervais and co; free podcast downloads for the punters; and, from what I hear, free hosting.
I have it on very good authority that Positive Internet – who said they expected 30,000 downloads per week, but eventually found themselves supporting more than eight times that figure – weren’t paid in cash to host the podcast. Instead, they got free publicity: every episode closed with a namecheck, often accompanied by a glowing personal endorsement. ‘Great guys… brilliant guys… experts in the (hosting) field, and that’s why I like them… genius input and good work…’ – not bad.
Barter arrangements like these aren’t uncommon, especially in a small business or start-up context. But it’s easy to understand how bad feelings might arise when Ricky justifies the decision to start charging for the podcasts by saying: ‘We have got to charge a little bit for it, because it does cost money to host.’
So, with the series heading for its final episode, someone at Audible recognises a business opportunity, and cuts a deal with them. Then, suddenly, episode 12 opens with the news that ‘we may be carrying on’. In fact, Stephen Merchant lets a bit more slip at the end: despite all Ricky’s earlier talk of ‘we’re not sure’, he says ‘there’s also a free taster’ – which seems a very specific promise, if it’s all so vague.
(Once you’ve punched in your credit card number, of course, we get a little more candid. ‘I’ll tell you what’s new about (the new series): this time you have to pay for it,’ he cackles at the start of the second ‘season’ opener.)
I don’t think anyone could justifiably condemn him for moving from ‘free’ to ‘fee’. It’s nothing to be ashamed of: I mean, we all have to put food on the table. If your 12-week freebie commitment expires, and you reckon you can make a bit of cash by doing a few more, good on you. But please Ricky, why not just be straight about it?
Otherwise, you can understand why people might take matters into their own hands, and post dodgy copies for download on their own sites and blogs. It took me precisely one web search to find a cracked version: even more helpfully, someone had tagged it ‘piracy’.
UPDATE: Just for completeness… I’ve been able to confirm that Ricky initially brought the idea to Guardian Unlimited, who paid him ‘minimal artist rates and a part of the production costs’ to do the series of 12. Channel 4 did pay Ricky, not the Guardian, for its advertising slots.

One thought on “What is Ricky Gervais so embarrassed about?”

Comments are closed.