Budding comics invited to iCast

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Comedians can test their shtick online with iCast Comedy, the working title for a CMGI-owned comedy channel set to launch formally in November.

A Web-based entertainment company, iCast Corp. sells itself as an Internet platform that hosts a series of innovative interactive channels. Current iCast channels include music, movies and radio.

Comedic actor Janeane Garofalo is signed up as iCast Comedy's celebrity spokeswoman. Her participation kicks off with her own content area on the Web site, a half-hour online radio show, personal appearances and performances in two multicity college comedy tours.

The channel will combine licensed, internally produced and user-created content. While DiNoto Lee, New York, is iCast's ad agency, the company said this year's iCast Comedy marketing would use promotions handled by U.S. Concepts.


"The site's content will be passed around, in the way that jokes are virally transmitted from one friend to another," said iCast Comedy President Lara Stein, former programming director at the New York office of Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.

ICast Comedy targets 18-to-24-year-olds, inviting participation of amateurs and professionals

"We want the entire gamut of comedic talent to access and become known on iCast Comedy," said CEO Brian Murphy, formerly co-executive director of HBO's "U.S. Comedy Arts Festival."

"It's a place of experimentation and discovery for our audience, and in turn we will provide a creative way for advertisers to reach them," he said of the many non-traditional ad platforms.

The channel's "iCast Comedy Bake-off" tour heads to 10 college campuses this fall. The overall winner from local competitions will be featured in the spring tour with Ms. Garofalo. In addition to her fee, Ms. Garofalo will become a stockholder in iCast Comedy.


Marketers taking part in the tour include title sponsor Warner-Lambert Co.'s Listerine and associate sponsor Helene Curtis' Salon Selectives. Steve Flanagan, senior VP-sales for iCast, said sponsorships range from $200,000 to $500,000.

"We're unique because the content, user and advertiser are connected directly," he said.

Listerine will receive positioning on College Television Network in promotional spots hosted by Ms. Garofalo, as well as product sampling. ICast Comedy will also begin strategic broadcasting on CTN in 2001. ICast Comedy will be the exclusive comedy channel for CMGI sibling AltaVista Co.

Mr. Murphy said primary competitors for the new channel include Comedy Central, Comedy-World.com, Laugh.com and Z.com, though they are "mostly content-and celebrity-driven, while we are more focused on making our cross-platform distribution plan viable."

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