Former Trump Aide Michael Caputo Wants to Give Roseanne Reboot a New Home

Can a conservative-minded online streaming service lure a just-fired, racist-tweeting, TV mega-star? We may soon find out.


Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Less than 24 hours after the Roseanne reboot was canceled, former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo began plotting ways to get her back on air.

Caputo is the chief marketing officer of an online streaming TV startup called Bond, which aims to fund film and television programming through “crowd-investing.” He told The Daily Beast that he and his colleagues plan “to reach out to Roseanne [Barr] immediately” in the wake of the cancellation of her ABC show on Tuesday over a series of racist and anti-Semitic tweets.

Despite the controversy surrounding Barr, the rebooted Roseanne earned huge ratings and plenty of headlines for its star’s support for President Donald Trump. Caputo, who helped run Trump’s New York campaign, hopes to capitalize on that popularity. If he were to do so, it would be a coup for Bond, which was founded last year but has yet to begin airing content on its streaming service.

“We always planned on reaching out to Roseanne eventually,” Caputo told The Daily Beast. “Now it’s sooner rather than later.”

A show on Caputo’s streaming service would be a major step down in terms of audience size for Barr, whose show set viewership records in its short-lived tenure. Caputo says Bond is aiming for 150 original content creators to draw 75,000 paying subscribers in its first year. By contrast, the first episode of ABC’s Roseanne reboot drew more than 27 million viewers.

But Roseanne has become persona non grata in Hollywood, ever more so after a series of tweets that called liberal financier George Soros, who is Jewish, a Nazi collaborator and compared Valerie Jarrett, an African American adviser to former president Barack Obama, to an ape. A new home at Bond would, potentially, insulate Barr from backlash to her consistently controversial politics and public statements.

Caputo, for one, views it as a cleaner ideological fit than ABC ever was. In slideshow presentations pitching its streaming service to various potential investors, Bond even used the Roseanne reboot as a model for the type of programming that the company could support. Caputo said that model was used explicitly to lure conservative-minded backers eager to tip the balance of political power in Hollywood.

The Daily Beast obtained a pair of slides from that presentation, which hyped “The Roseanne Effect” and declared that the Roseanne reboot was “disrupting Hollywood orthodoxy,” and that while the show was “panned by Hollywood” and “ridiculed by Liberal America,” its key demographic—“pro-Trump middle America”—had been “ignored by elites.”

Roseanne may have a domino effect on Hollywood,” the presentation predicted, and Bond would facilitate that effect. It “accelerates [the] end of [the] Hollywood elite.”

Another presentation on Bond’s website pitches the service in Russian for the benefit of potential investors in that country, where its co-founders, Vlad Lobak and Den Tolmor, were born.

Russian involvement in Bond prompted some interest by Senate investigators probing Kremlin influence on the 2016 presidential election. Caputo told The Daily Beast that the Senate Intelligence Committee asked “about my present business with Russian partners,” and that he provided the committee with a couple of the slideshows. “They didn’t seem all that intrigued and we didn’t talk about it,” he recalled. “The Mueller team was even less interested.”

Though Caputo acknowledged pitching explicitly conservative potential investors on Roseanne’s appeal, he said Bond is reaching out to “video and filmmakers of all genres, not just conservatives,” to “every creator who is sick of pennies from YouTube and can’t get a meeting with a Hollywood God.”

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As for how a reboot of the Roseanne reboot on the Bond platform would work, Caputo described the crowd investing model as follows: “Roseanne would join Bond, upload a proposal for new content and fans would buy shares. As her new content is uploaded, a small piece of each viewer's subscription would be paid to Roseanne. Her user-investors would profit from her success or lose their investment if she flops.”

For Caputo, there’s a bit of a personal feud at stake too. His pitch to Roseanne comes more than a quarter century after he himself clashed with Bob Iger, the chief executive of Disney, ABC’s parent company. And like the Roseanne tiff, that dispute had to do with the cancellation of a popular television show.

In the early 1990s, Caputo helped organize a grassroots campaign to pressure Iger, then the president of ABC Entertainment, into reversing a decision to cancel the hit show Twin Peaks. Caputo, a massive fan of the show, and his group—Citizens Opposing the Offing of Peaks—scored a partial victory, convincing ABC to air the remaining six episodes of the show’s ongoing season, but it was subsequently canceled.

Caputo said the Twin Peaks ordeal was “the seed of my interest in Bond.” He added, “In the Bond model, there is no Bob Iger.”