Permanent film rights

Here’s an idea on how the show can come back and continue indefinitely.

Of course, we all love to speculate, and only those in the know actually know what it takes to make MST3K, but…

I think the way to keep MST3K alive is relatively simple. They need to stop worrying about securing home video rights for every movie. What they need to do is get on a streamer/network/channel that can supply them movies, just like on Comedy Central and Sci-Fi, but the only concern is clearing them to show on the channel. Very much like Svengoolie and Joe Bob Briggs. They didn’t worry about video sales originally, they just made the show. We circulated the tapes.
I get wanting the extra money from reselling the episodes. But I think the success of the old shows selling well on DVD put the idea in their head that they must secure the rights for DVD, as opposed to just showing the episode.
Especially nowadays, they really don’t need to try to sell the episode after the fact. They need to restructure their business model to become more transitory, in my opinion. That’s how 24 episode seasons can happen again, and the selection of films opens up considerably.
I’m sure there’s tons of magical thinking here on my part. But I still feel at the core of idea that there’s something to it. Just get somewhere that will make the show without worrying about reselling it later. Joel wants MST3K to continue like SNL. Well, SNL doesn’t release box sets of every season, either. They just make it, show it, then make another. And another. And another.

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I don’t agree. SNL doesn’t require rewatching - it’s not a good investment to buy DVDs or sell them. MST3K is infinitely rewatchable - in fact, it’s practically required. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught a joke I didn’t catch before, it’s baked in to the show.

I’d rather have 10 episodes I’ll watch over and over than 50 episodes I’ll watch once if I happen to catch it. Let’s not dumb down the show just to keep it going.


I don’t see how not getting permanent rights for the films equates to dumbing down the product.

Even so, I kind of prefer having permanent rights. This from the standpoint of just not wanting lost episodes. But if I have to choose between lost episodes and no episodes, I would choose the rather.

There are likely other hurdles to getting on a streaming service with access to a catalog of movies.

It does always feel a bit more corporate when they say “circulate the URL [to our commercial website]” versus the old “circulate the tapes.” The latter felt a bit more grassroots thumb in the eye of the corporate overseers.

Does getting the rights to show a movie these days usually include the rights necessary to riff it? (Even if I knew what it used to be, things have changed so much so often and so quickly that I have no idea.) That’s the assumption that’s necessary to make this a great idea.

I honestly wouldn’t think physical home movie rights were the expensive part any more, but the market fell out of that last year! Who knows what the studios distribution and exhibition model is supposed to work now?

While it’s not ideal, I’d support this, the same as I would a live or Fathom Events show, if the numbers work out.

All I know is this method worked well for 11 seasons, and created all the episodes we know and love. According to the crowdsource campaigns, movie rights were the expensive part. So I say, do what I do…

Here’s why the show would have be dumbed down to work that way, with SNL as the control:


[Joke] (pause so the audience knows it’s time to laugh)

Repeat ad nauseum



It’s that rapid fire ‘the right people will get it’ approach that makes the show what it is. The ‘once and it’s gone’ approach just WILL NOT WORK for this show.

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I don’t see how this concept works at all.

First, the remaining MST3K fan base is too small for any streaming service of consequence to even bother with. They want millions of viewers, not tens of thousands.

But say some streaming service did take the bait, then what? The streaming service becomes the new Gizmoplex? The new exclusive online source for MST3K content? So people who do not or choose not to subscribe to that streaming service are just SOL? I guess not every one will get it, but “the right ones will”. LOL, wink, wink!

Would this theoretical streaming service allow members/subscribers to download the shows? So then sooner or later, some one just starts posting them to YouTube and the streaming service has to keep getting them removed and so the fans are all like “Hey, what’s up with you greedy SOBs? We’re just trying to help our favorite show and the free exposure on YouTube will mean more money for you!”. And the guys at Greedy SOB Streaming Services, Inc. are all like, “Nuh-uh, dude! The way we make more money is by you buying our service and watching your favorite show there.” And fans are like, “#@[&% you, greedy SOBs! MST3K should be free, just like it was in the old days!” And the Greedy SOB, Inc. guys are all, “Dude, it wasn’t free. Your parents paid their cable bill.”

Is that how that’s supposed to work?

Well then I must adamantly disagree with Joel. I would want the show to get better and better as time goes on, not worse and worse.

And we should all be thankful for small blessings like that.

And sell ads. Lots and lots and lots of ads. Again, if that is what you discern Joel wants for MST3K, then you can just let me off at the next corner.

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Who said SNL should run MST3K?

Funny as this can be, I really cherish old episodes that include the ads. It’s like stepping into a time portal.

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Comedy Central: ad-based network, 128 episodes

SciFi Network: ad-based network, 48 episodes

Netflix: Subscription streamer, 20 episodes

Gizmoplex: subscription App, 13 episodes

To me theres a clear answer about which model gets us more episodes.

I do think that the idea of using a streaming network with access to a large library of films is intriguing. And its completely right that for years the show had no (or very little) physical media for home viewing. But even a streamer (like Paramount+) could make the episodes produced with their library content “on-demand” for subscribers. Or it doesnt need to be a premium streamer. There are plenty of free app streamers that have access to a large library of movies for the exact reason we need: they are terrible and cheap to get the rights for.

One thing I’m not sure about: lets say I’m Tubi, I have the rights to stream “Champagne and Bullets” does that include the rights to edit and amend in the way the show does? I would think so. Broadcasters edit for content all the time, Im just not positive.


I don’t really care about who pays for episodes as much as I care that episodes are made.

Plus to the original post main theme:

I’m fine with movie rights that lapse. Especially if the original airing has ability for me to buy the episodes in a “permanent” format.


Not entirely a fair comparison - there was no such thing as streaming services during the original run.

IMO, maybe a slightly better comparison would be to use HBO or Showtime for the original run instead of streamers, but that’s still essentially the same as ComedyCentral/Scifi and we have no numbers about how the show would have performed on those networks.


Ah, but over the next year or two we may see a trend towards “bundles of differently owned channels of subscription+ad-supported content.”

(Or not. I didn’t assume studios would replace multiple sources of income with a single one, yet here we are.)

The argument is moot.

Production companies are not willing to piecemeal rights for things these days. They learnt their lessons with the music rights fiascos and the general issues with releases television shows on VHS and later DVD in the 90s. They will cover all revenue streams from the off.

I also always find it curious when these threads all advocate for MST3K to do “something different” but it’s always something someone else is already doing:

They should do a once or twice a year Fathom Event like RifTrax.

They should do a one-off watch it or never see it again weekly show like Svengoolie.

Why should MST just retread what someone else is doing?


But the Comedy Central of the early Nineties was not the same channel six or seven years later, alas.

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I honestly thought this thread was different, given the proposal of making episodes using (for example) Universal movies that Universal would more clearly control. That really isn’t that different that I’ve recently been supposing that JoelCo was basically doing for Shout this year and had planned on doing for Season 14.

This is as opposed to Svengoolie, as Nexstar doesn’t own most (if any) of the movies used there.

I take threads like this as idle brainstorming. Maybe some ideas could be helpful. Many will not. Either way, nothing to get worked up over.

Would we complain if Joel came out and said: “Hey, I realize we can produce the show with 5 year licenses for way less. I’ve also made a deal with Universal and the new episodes will stream on Peacock, but it gives us access to the NBC/Universal library.”

The original poster used SNL as an example of ‘how things should be done.’

I read:

To mean:

  1. Joel wants the show to be a show that continues every year despite changing times, writers, and cast members. A show that is its own self fulfilling organism. I understand that this ignores that the same person has run SNL for more than 40 years.

  2. I didn’t really follow what the box sets have to do with SNL vs MST3K. SNL makes box sets of collections. Up until recentLY MST3K just released box sets of 1-4 episodes. The box set seasons are only the past 3 and I think Kickstarter rewards kind of made that necessary.

Not really sure I’d latch onto the SNL thing anyway. Though I do kind of vaguely remember Joel making some sort of comment about wanting the show to be like SNL for its permanence, but we very well could be experiencing the Mandella Effect.


The SNL thing was just a comparison to a show that continues and changes cast members along the way. Nothing more, nothing less. It was based on a comment Joel made during the first kickstarter, about MST3K becoming ongoing like SNL, as a self fulfilling organism, as you said.
All I suggested was going back to the original release format, which is probably just me pie-in-the-sky-ing. It may not be possible to do it that way. But, since that’s Sven’s model, it made me think it could be a possibility again. After all, that was the CC/Sci-Fi model. It was just a tv show. You tuned in. No one thought about selling it afterwards. And perhaps the selling model has altered things permanently for MST3K. Sure, episodes would “disappear” without permanent rights, but it’s never really been an issue to locate episodes. Rowsdower is permanent for us, even if we have to look sometimes :wink:
If MST3K could make the show like how they did in the 90s (writers room, nine day turnaround, was it?), and release 24 episode seasons, that would be ideal, I would think. More episodes means a chance to grow the show and sharpen the writing teams. It wouldn’t be about dumbing down and a lack of quality, not at all. It would be the opposite of that. More shows means more chance to shine. More chances for a new favorite.