Fable’s Showrunner showcases Netflix of AI with user/AI-generated TV shows

Fable is launching its Netflix of AI platform, Showrunner, which lets people make their own TV shows by writing prompts which are turned into shows by AI.

The San Francisco company won two Primetime Emmy awards and is run by CEO Edward Saatchi and veterans from Oculus, Pixar and AI startups. Once focused on virtual reality, Fable is now it’s pivoting hard into the AI wave with the launch of 10 TV shows where users can make their own episodes, Saatchi said in an interview with GamesBeat.

With Showrunner, users will be able to make TV shows and episodes from their couch, describing the episode they want, waiting a few minutes and then start watching, Saatchi said.

“The next Netflix won’t be purely passive. You will be at home, describe the show you’d like to watch and within a minute or two start watching,” Saatchi said. “Finish a show that you enjoy and make new episodes, and even put yourself and your friends in episodes – fighting aliens, in your favorite sitcom and solving crimes.”

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All the shows are animated for now and are generated from a prompt of around 10 to 15 words. With that, users can make full AI TV episodes. Showrunner gives users scenes and episodes of two minutes to 16 minutes — all with AI dialogue, voice, editing, different shot types, consistent characters, story development.

“One prompt with 15 words can be enough for AI to generate a whole episode of 10 to 20 minutes,” Saatchi said. “But we’re finding that people prefer to like do a prompt per scene.”

Some shows may be duds that feel like they were created in 15 seconds. But artists and seasoned filmmakers are applying their minds to the challenge of making great AI films, and Saatchi has high hopes about that. With Exit Valley, the team has come up with harsh satire about Silicon Valley. It’s a pretty brutal show, done in the South Park style.

Users can create episodes, as can entertainment professionals. Saatchi hopes the show can gain an audience via self-publishing on Amazon Prime. If user contributions wind up winning via a jury selection, they can be eligible for IMDB credits and revenue sharing, if the show makes money. There are already about 100 people making scenes and episodes, and soon it will open up to 50,000 on a waiting list.

For those professionals or semi-professionals who want to dive deeper, they can edit their episode’s scripts, shots, voices and remake the episode. But Saatchi said Showrunner is targeted at non-technical, non-professional users, people on their couch at home who want to be entertained.

New shows for the Netflix of AI

Showrunner’s shows, created by AI via human prompts.

Fable is announcing 10 TV shows made with Showrunner (and where users can make new episodes just by speaking). It’s also sharing the first two episodes of Season 1 of Exit Valley, the first AI TV show made by users with Showrunner.

Showrunner demonstrated its SHOW-1 model last year with nine episodes of South Park AI including the 22-minute episode Westland Chronicles about Disney standing ‘Bizney’ developing an AI stuffed toy with disastrous consequences. The episodes, made as research without the permission of the South Park creators, received eight million views — and meetings with Fox, Netflix, Paramount and Sony.

A weakness of Showrunner and AI in general for entertainment is that it’s more suited to episodic content rather than the epic 10 to 50 episode arcs of shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, Saatchi said.

“Today AI can’t sustain a story beyond one episode: what AI is strongest at is deeply episodic shows with characters largely resetting every episode – sitcoms, police procedurals, space exploration,” he said. “We are building an underlying simulation so that characters can have longer arcs, and remember what they have done in previous episodes, grow and have permanent consequences and conflict.”

To unlock shows with ongoing multi-episode and multi-season-long arcs (which is impossible with today’s Showrunner) Fable is building underlying simulations for its characters so that they can have permanent consequences.

How it works

Showrunner is powered by a Simulation of Sim Francisco, which the company previewed in its TED talk last year. It uses Fable’s AI model SHOW-1.

Fable released a research paper on how they built the SHOW-1 model and AI Showrunner Agents that can write, produce, direct, cast, edit, voice and animate episodes of TV.

“Our South Park episodes were a research project that took on a life of their own, seeing the huge desire of people to make their own episodes of TV, we’ve built Showrunner as a Netflix of AI to power original works of art that can stand the test of time, and to let people bring their stories to life,” Saatchi said.

Ten Shows are being announced today. Exit Valley, powered by a Simulation of Sim Francisco, is available for all Alpha Users and the rest are being made by creators.

The shows available include:

  • Exit Valley — a vicious satire of Silicon Valley – the first two episodes of which are being released today.
  • United Flavors of America – a cartoon political satire of US politics in 2024
  • Ikiru Shinu — a dark horror anime focused on the survivors of a global calamity trying to rebuild society.
  • Pixels — gentle family comedy of AI-enabled devices living in ‘Sim Francisco’.
  • The Prize — a spaceship-set story about spacefaring explorers encountering aliens.
  • Hutzpa! — Bernie, a curmudgeonly widower, checks himself into a rundown senior home, where the misfit residents show him that he may be the one who’s got some learning to do.
  • Sim Francisco — Anthology show of the stories of everyday people living in Sim Francisco
  • Shadows over Shinjuku — a 1930s-set anime detective noir drama.
  • Thistle Gulch — a Western town with dark secrets.
  • What We Leave Behind — a family drama about two orphans in Sim Francisco

The Simulation

SouthPark AI still

The South Park fan Simulation runs all the time. Every week the AI Showrunner generates highlights of what happened that week in The Simulation in the form of an episode.

Fable showed South Park AI episodes during the WGA strike and demonstrated that AI could create funny, animated episodes.

Dov Friedman, co-creator of TV show Hutzpa!, said in a statement, “We put our all into creating Hutzpa!, but our lack of Hollywood connections made it impossible to get our foot in the door. We couldn’t even get a yes or a no because no one would give three newcomers a meeting. Showrunner provides creators like us with the tools and technology to develop a full season of our show without relying on a big studio.”

Saatchi said, “A future ‘Netflix of AI’ where you can make your shows won’t feel like a tool, but instead generating a show or episode should be as easy as browsing. ”

Today, users can visit showrunner.xyz to become part of the alpha test. Showrunner has a 50,000 waitlist (we’re assuming those are all people, and not AI), is today opening up access to its alpha and letting users make their own TV shows and episodes.

Jacob Madden, head of technology and co-creator for Showrunner, said in a statement, “It has been incredibly exciting to see how Showrunner ignites creativity in people. The platform allows showrunners to experiment with their stories in real-time, constantly iterating and refining their vision. Showrunner redefines what a TV show can be and I cannot wait to see what stories emerge next.”

Exit Valley

Exit Valley is a satirical AI-generated TV show about a place where people care more about exits than society.

As part of the launch today, Showrunner is releasing two episodes of Exit Valley, billed as a vicious satire of Silicon Valley, starring the Silicon Valley leaders who stand to make the most from the AI revolution. The show is an animated comedy targeting 22 episodes in its first season, some made by Fable and some made by users and selected by a jury of filmmakers and creatives.

Saatchi said, “Satire is a tool of the powerless against the powerful — today we are told by tech billionaires that they will use AI to end capitalism, the need for money and work — and during an uncomfortable period they will of course become the richest humans to have ever lived. Giving people new abilities to satirize the hubris, madness and greed of Silicon Valley seems like a perfect use-case for AI and hence why it’s Showrunner’s first show.”

Part of Saatchi’s goal is to get AI on the right path toward helping humanity, and the other part is a curiosity about the drive for general artificial intelligence, when AI surpasses the intelligence of humans. He hopes that by setting AI characters loose in a world — called The Simulation — those characters can grow, form relationships, breed and evolve. It’s possible that, left alone for generations, they could evolve into general artificial intelligence, he told me in the past.

And so all of these efforts have that possibility in the background. But in the foreground, it’s possible that AI will result in better games and better entertainment, like the South Park-inspired TV shows that are created by AI, with humans only contributing the right prompts.

“We’re launching the show, and we’ll make episodes of what is happening in Sim Francisco (the larger region that ties the AI shows together) and generate and see what’s happening to individual characters in Sim Francisco in a feed of their life. But also you can control it,” Saatchi said.

In Sim Francisco, Saatchi hopes there will be millions of AI characters walking around and living their lives inside a kind of experimental fish bowl that we can watch.

“We want to have Sim Francisco be like a million agents with really rich, vibrant lives,” he said.

While Saatchi is bullish on the tech, a major weakness of Showrunner and AI in general for entertainment is that it’s more suited to episodic content than epic shows.

Saatchi admitted, “Today AI can’t sustain a story beyond one episode: what AI is strongest at is deeply episodic shows with characters largely resetting every episode – sitcoms, police procedurals, space exploration.”

Philipp Maas, co-creator of Showrunner, said in a statement, “Showrunner is about letting people who have amazing ideas for shows and episodes to get in the door of Hollywood – we’re excited to see what people make.”

Saatchi said, “It’s become consensus to say that AI is ‘just’ a tool in the toolbox, merely another stage of VFX technology – we believe it’s a much more radical disruption, and that Hollywood will make two-way entertainment: audiences watching a season of a show, loving it and then making new episodes with a few words, audiences putting themselves in shows – our relationship to entertainment will be totally different in five years and we’re excited for Showrunner to be part of that change.”

Fable was founded by Oculus and then spun out of it on its own. It recently won The Peabody Award for creating the AI Virtual Being, Lucy.