Thesp and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. signed pact with startup Evox Television to produce and star in an Internet-only series documenting his quest to build the greenest house in North America.
“On Begley Street” follows Begley and wife Rachelle Carson-Begley (pictured, above) with their teenage daughter Hayden on their quest to erect a 3,800-sq.-ft. house in Studio City, Calif., that will be fully off the grid with a 10,000-kilowatt solar-powered electrical system, rainwater-collection tank and gray-water recycling system.
“This show is about efficiency and saving money, and getting with the program in 2013,” said Ed Begley Jr.
UDPATE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Evox had given Begley $17 million upfront to produce the series. That figure was provided by Evox CEO Xavier Dubois, who said he was making a joke; the exaggerated number was “meant to be taken as a joke especially given the content deals in the Internet TV market right now,” he says. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
The Begleys bought the previous house on the 11,000-sq.-ft. lot for $1.08 million last year — and discovered that because of damage to the infrastructure and their desire to outfit it with economically sustainable features they would need to rebuild it from the ground up. Begley said the new design is aimed at meeting the highest level of certification (platinum) under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for green buildings, homes and neighborhoods developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The question we’re trying to answer is: Are you coming out ahead by tearing down an old house?” he said.
“On Begley Street” will bow Sept. 15, with new eps to run weekly, in an initial run of nine segments each less than 10 minutes. Guest appearances include Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jeff Goldblum, Sharon Lawrence and Jason Mraz. Filming took place over the last year and is skedded to continue through house’s completion and beyond.
Begley previously starred in enviro-themed “Living With Ed” reality skein, which premiered on HGTV in 2007 and then moved to Discovery’s short-lived Planet Green cabler in 2009.
With Evox, “we thought this was the right place for this show because we’d have the most control, the widest reach,” Begley said, adding, “The cable networks were not really interested in this show.”
One challenge for cable nets with respect to green-themed programming is that they’re leery of running TV shows that might offend advertisers, according to Begley. Another issue: Such content may be too niche-oriented and haven’t garnered big auds.
But San Francisco-based Evox Television claims there’s a large and growing audience for content about “LOHAS,” or lifestyles of health and sustainability. Startup has a blended biz model that includes the ad-supported online television network, a retail marketplace and a social community.
“We empower global change through social media programming, and using retail and conscious capitalism,” Dubois said. Like home-shopping nets like QVC and HSN, “we are pulling in hopefully a lot of people who purchase sustainable products… This market is willing to pay a little bit more for products from vendors with responsible practices.”
Evox’s content currently is available worldwide on its website and via Roku Internet set-tops. By end of August, Dubois said, Evox will be streaming on additional devices including Apple TV, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Samsung Smart TVs, as well as Apple iOS and Android mobile devices and tablets. All told, Evox will be accessible on 33 million devices in the U.S. and 87 million devices worldwide (not including PCs).
For “On Begley Street,” Evox extended Begley and the company creating the series, Make It Happen Productions, an upfront budget plus additional revenue-sharing opportunities. Begley said he expects to launch a store on Evox’s website stocked with products from companies he already does biz with.
Thesp Raphael Sbarge, a friend of Begley’s, is exec producer for the skein. ”The thing that’s delightful about Rachelle and Ed together is that it’s funny and informative. You’re not forced to eat your broccoli,” Sbarge said.
Show could expand into longer format as Begleys move into the new green home, Sbarge said. Eventually, concept for “On Begley Street” is to moprh into show covering construction of eco-friendly homes around the world.
The Begley family is hoping to move into the house sometime in 2014. The new home reuses 96% of the materials of the previous structure, which was dismantled by hand — one brick and board at a time, according to Ed. “We don’t know what the refurbish will cost,” he said. “But it is going to be a tidy sum.”
Overall, Evox has 200 hours of programming, some of it not launched yet, including reality, comedy and drama, as well as talkshows, docus and cooking shows. Startup expects to let community members share user-generated content as well. Featured brands in the Evox Store include Vitamix, ToGoBrands, Mrs. Myers and Earth’s Baby Best.
Evox (pronounced “evokes”) has 22 full-time employees. Startup is backed by Dubois — who has worked as a software developer at database company FileMaker and media companies including Fox, FX and FearNet — and other investors including Maurice Kanbar, entrepreneur behind Skyy Vodka. According to Dubois, Evox currently is seeking additional outside funding.