Comedy Central to Launch Broadband Web Site to Feature 80 Short, Original Video Items Weekly

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NEW YORK ( -- Responding to marketers' demands for sophisticated online advertising options and more ways to reach viewers, Comedy Central will launch a broadband-enabled Web site, executives at the cable channel said at a press conference in New York yesterday. Coined, the site will go live Nov. 1.

Comedy Central's new broadband video content will consist of 3- to 5-minute original shorts aimed at an online 'content-snacking' audience.

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Comedy Central is the latest in a string of cable networks to launch broadband video plays. "[Advertisers] want more content, more ways to be in the brand," said Comedy Central's advertising sales chief, Jeff Lucas. The new broadband player is the most sophisticated of the ones offered by Viacom cable networks, said Jason Hirschorn, MTV Network's senior VP-digital music and media. Earlier this year, MTV launched Overdrive and VH1 launched V Spot.

"Our audience wants content when they want it," said Mitch Fried, senior VP-promotion marketing.

'Odd Todd'
MotherLoad will feature five original series, including "I Love the Thirties" (which is a take off of "I Love the '80s") and Internet cult fave "Odd Todd." Other made-for-Web-only content are a reality show, animation, movie reviews and a sketch program. Up to 80 new clips will be added each week. Other channels feature content from Comedy Central shows, with a special section from The Daily Show, cult classics, stand-up comics' routines and a build-your-own-playlist section.

All programming is short -- between 3 minutes to 5 minutes long. "This is content snacking," Mr. Hirschorn said. "This is not to mimic TV but to be a new experience." Beth Lewand, VP-president of digital media, said, "We still feel TV is the best place to show full-length TV shows."

Advertisers will include Verizon Wireless, Volkswagen and U.S. Army. The site's launch sponsor, Verizon Broadband, asked Comedy Central for a commercial message to drive home the point of faster Internet connections. The answer was to highlight in a short film the comedian Chris Finnegan racing to deliver a joke as quickly as possible. To underscore the speed of his delivery, the screen juxtaposes the joke with, for example, an athlete sprinting the 100-meter dash. In another variation, the athlete is dressed up in a turkey suit.

Most of the ads will be 15- or 30-second video units. There will be one ad for every three pieces of content. The user will not be able to stop the ad. The Internet's virtually unlimited supply of inventory storage will be a boon for integrating sponsors into Comedy Central's original programming, said Mitch Fried, senior VP-promotion marketing at the network, part of Viacom. "The parameters established on the air are limited by the amount of airtime we can use," he said.

Next step: Wireless
Network executives also said such content could move to wireless or video on demand after it premiers on the broadband player. Comedy Central already has a deal to supply video content to Verizon, Sprint, Cingular and Virgin Mobile.

Promos for will appear on TV., the site for the network, attracted 1.5 million unique viewers during September, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. For the 2004-2005 broadcast season, Comedy Central averaged a 0.66 prime-time rating and 809,000 viewers ages 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The executives expected the viewers for the new site to be the viewers of the cable channel. That audience is affluent, educated, early adopting young adults, Mr. Fried said. Some 80% of them possess broadband hook-ups. "Broadband has become a must-have component," he said.

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