The high volume of Internet video sites begs the question “why more?” each time there is a new launch or venture financing in the space. The spate of comedy focused sites begs a punchline. Yet even with sites like HBO’s This Just In failing in July, Revver selling out on the cheap this month, or Grouper changing its name and business objectives over the summer, more video sites still appear like chickens waiting to cross the proverbial road.
The latest entrant into the fray has the benefit of a memorable name: comedy.com. The question is will that make a difference? Will their effort turn out to be another equivalent of amateur night at small town bar or will they headline with must-see footage before a packed house on a bigger stage?
Dean Valentine, the former head of the UPN TV network and President of Walt Disney TV, is betting his time and money the site will have legs. He confidently believes they’ll find the spotlight and not the red light (many clubs turn on a red light for a performer’s view when it’s time to pull the rip cord and get off the stage).
The site and concept for Comedy.com has been in development for more than a year. An impressive team with backgrounds in comedy, production, Internet and Television has been assembled. Along with web development, out of a Santa Monica production studio they’ve been quietly working to create a handful of original programs.
“What we’re trying to do is take the best and most innovative comedians and the most innovative Web 2.0 tools and crate an online destination for comedy,” Valentine said.
So in addition to that custom video content, Comedy.com will rely on user submitted content and extensive social networking functionality (content sharing, voting, communication etc). There will be a joke database and a slate of non-video content. Everything in the package, it seems, is designed to appeal to an audience largely expected to be comprised of under-34 year old men.
Valentine thinks their reach may be more extensive than the obvious demographics. “The nice thing about comedy,” he says “is that it’s really broad. If you find something funny you don’t stop laughing at it because you’re 45 and not 22 anymore.” That’s a fair point, but how many 45 year olds (male or female) are likely to commit the time to watch dueling comedians in a game show called “how to make a hot girl laugh?” We’ll have to wait and see.
Comedy.com’s efforts have reportedly been funded so far by Prism Venture Partners and Walden Ventures. The early thought is they will try to monetize the site with a combination of on-site display ads and in-stream video advertising.
The road ahead won’t be without traffic and obstacles. Even with great content and that memorable name, it can be tough to break through the voluminous clutter of content floating around and capture an audience. It’s the net-effect of all the video proliferation: discovering quality can be a chore.
Complicating matters, Comedy.com will compete head on against a long list of other offerings backed by credible entertainment industry veterans. Some are production houses aimed at generating high-grade Internet video. Other’s are similar defined video portals; some even comedy specific.
At the front of the competitive conga-line is a well funded (Sequoia Capital) Will Ferrell led comedy vehicle called Funny or Die. There is also more recent entrant National Banana which is a comedy offering helped by Jerry Zucker, the famed writer/producer/director behind Airplane and the Naked Gun Movies (he also directed Ghost).
Just in case that’s not enough, there’s neighboring Santa Monica video studio Deca (funded by Mayfield and General Catalyst), Vuguru (ex-Disney Chief Michael Eisner’s studio), United Talent Agencies incubated 60 Frames Entertainment (which gets help from current Oscar contenders the Coen Brothers) and also My Damn Channel, an offering from former CBS Radio and MTV exec Rob Barnett that’s home to content from comic industry veteran Harry Shearer and other veteran talent from entertainment industry (not just comedy).
For a video site, the bottom line (which could become a punchline) is that it’s tough out there. A few months will give an indication whether Valentine’s broader audience is within reach. In a few months, in other words, we’ll see if comedy.com turns out to be funny or laughable.
For now, comedy.com is live and aiming for the stars. Hollywood is the land of dreams after all and they’re aiming big.
As the movies quote goes: “this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’ ”
•Meet Deca: Another Internet Video Studio
•Creative Artists Agency Starts Venture Fund
•Revver Saved and Salvaged With Emergency Sale
•Warner Brothers Throws Weight into Internet Specific Content
•National Banana and 60 Frames Get Funded
•My Damn Channel Moves to Syndicate, Organic Growth Too Slow
•My Damn Channel: The Launch
•Grouper reinvented: Introducing Crackle
•HBO’s This Just In – No more