In 2013, Austin PBS station KLRU-TV partnered with barbecue baron Aaron Franklin to create BBQ with Franklin, a series of instructional videos chock-full of smoky secrets.
The first season, which is free and available on YouTube, was a soaring success, racking up more than two million views and snagging about 50,000 subscribers to the channel. In response to its popularity, KLRU spent the last six months filming a second season of the web series, and on November 4, the public media station launched a campaign to raise $20,000 to finalize production and get the episodes out to eager fans.
Funding for the television production has been secured, and KLRU is currently in talks with PBS for distribution.
"There is a huge community that supports the YouTube channel, and this is the way for [us] to say thanks," explains Sara Robertson, vice president of production and technology for KLRU. And that community has responded by pledging more than $5,000 in less than a day, proving that whether they're standing in line for hours or ponying up a few bucks, nothing sparks passion quite like Franklin's barbecue.
Once the videos are complete and available to public, the focus will shift to turning BBQ with Franklin into a television show separate from the web series. Robertson says they have secured funding for the television production and KLRU is currently in talks with PBS for distribution. "This is something we've been talking about for the last year, so we decided to go forward," Robertson says.
If all goes according to plan, BBQ with Franklin may hit the small screen by spring 2015, Robertson tells us. The Austin-based production will join other KLRU shows including Austin City Limits, Overheard with Evan Smith and Arts in Context.
Since launching the fundraiser, KLRU has received some criticism — most notably from people wondering why someone like Franklin is asking for donations. Robertson is quick to point out that though the famous pitmaster is lending his name to the campaign, this is about securing production costs for nonprofit KLRU. "I think [critics] think this is a project of a rich restaurateur," she says. "This is a public media project and production is expensive."
The campaign is much like any online fundraiser; backers receive gifts, perks and swag in exchange for a set donation. Among the items up for grabs are YETI coolers, T-shirts and a VIP screening of the web series along with Franklin and Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn. Not listed, of course, is the ultimate gift: a show devoted to Franklin and his barbecue.
KLRU's Indiegogo fundraiser officially ends on November 25. Fans interested in donating to the BBQ with Franklin campaign can find out more information here.