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Comcast Plugs Into Indie TV

Comcast is mining a fresh source for video-on-demand content: an independent television festival it sponsors in Los Angeles.

The cable giant is supporting ITVFest, now in its second year, providing the competition with $10,000 prizes for category winners, as well as exposure for work from those producers on its national video-on-demand platform. Categories include best reality show, best variety show, audience favorite and a new one, Web series.

ITVFest 2007 hopefuls can upload their submissions to Vuze until June 4.

Backers of the festival, to be held this year from July 27 to 29 at Raleigh Paramount Studios, said the event is a way to give content creators — who may currently lack representation or a means to step through the door to pitch a series idea — a way to access industry movers and shakers. AJ Tesler, founder of the festival and himself a producer, notes that the script for last year's audience favorite winner, This Is My Friend, was purchased by NBC.

Last year, there were 200 submissions overall, 22 of which became official selections. Two executives from the Comcast Interactive Media unit were on the judging panel.

Following last year's festival, “a majority of networks requested pilots for review, and that number will just grow,” Tesler said.

Caroline Marks, senior director of content development for Comcast Interactive Media, said participating in the festival is one way to find quality user-generated content. Many of the entries for last year's festival were very high-quality segments running from 30 to 60 minutes that were “eminently watchable,” she said, adding that some of the category winners had attracted the attention of cable and broadcast networks.

VOD exposure is part of the prize package for the winner, Marks said. She notes, though, that Comcast holds no contractual interest to the content rights. The company hopes its involvement will bring more of the independent television community into the festival.

This year, participation should get a boost from an alliance with the National Association of Television Programming Executives, which will host its own festival showcasing segments, July 25 to 27.