Production Company Fiction Riot Launches Subscription-Based Platform for Shortform Premium Videos

The company, run by former UTA agent Mike Esola, is launching its "fast fiction" platform, Ficto.
Fiction Riot CEO Mike Esola   |   Courtesy of Fiction Riot
The company, run by former UTA agent Mike Esola, is launching its "fast fiction" platform, Ficto.

The shortform video content sphere looks to be the next battleground for control over smartphone users, and one company is looking to be one of the first to stake land on that new frontier.

Fiction Riot, a production and streaming video company that has been operating under the radar for the past year, is officially unveiling itself to the world with the launch of Ficto, a subscription-based platform that delivers shortform premium video series.

“If television, when it had been invented, had been the size of your phone, the content would have been totally different,” says Fiction Riot CEO Mike Esola, a former UTA literary agent who left the agency business when he saw the smartphone migration as something that would impact content creation. "We are making content for what is essentially a new medium."

The company says it is already in production on 20 series that are mix of licensed and original content, with each series running 5- to 10-minute episodes, maxing out at 30 minutes. It calls the content “fast fiction.” And it’s touting user interaction with its shorts — 360 viewing, vertical videos, chats and live streams are on the menu of the proprietary technology — as another unique feature.

But the innovation Esola sees as the company’s game-changer is the transparent royalty payment system. Using third-party blockchain, Ficto boasts it will split royalty payment 50-50 with its creators.   

“Yes, there are other companies who will do content but not a single one of them pay in backend. You can’t check them, you can’t audit them. Ours is generous and 100 percent transparent,” says Esola.

The shortform content scene is quickly establishing itself as the next potential Internet Gold Rush. Quibi (short for quick bites), the startup from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, touts $1 billion in backing and is working on material from players such as Sam Raimi and Jason Blum.

Esola declined to give figures on the company’s financials but said Ficto is meant to be nimble and faster-moving than other companies. And it does not mean skimping on quality. The budgets for the series falls in the $30,000 to $50,000 per minute range.

“We are way over than almost any other platform,” he says.

Ficto has also spent the last year acquiring licenses and underlying material, buying up rights to 30 New York Times best-sellers, looking at works in the public domain and making deals with film companies to supply content that intersects with movies. For example, Jackie Chan and John Cena are starring in an action movie titled Project Extraction. Chan and Cena will star in a Ficto series that dovetails in some fashion with the movie.

Among other Ficto series are those based on the Sophie Kinsella best-seller Can You Keep a Secret?, starring Alexandra Daddario and Tyler Hoechlin, and Hush, Hush, based on the book by Becca Fitzpatrick and starring Mackenzie Foy.

Fiction Riot plans to roll out Ficto in spring 2019 with a subscription price plan that includes a $3.99 platform with advertisement and $6.99 with no ads.

Still, it’s the royalty plan that Esola hopes will be Ficto’s lasting impact.

“We’re not coming in as a tech-only company, that’s not who I am,” he says. “It’s about the content creators. If someone can pay artists more than we are, that means we’ve helped spur something.”