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Comedy Central Bets Big On Web Development

Secret Girlfriend may
not have given Comedy Central spectacular ratings, but the show, originally based
on FremantleMedia Web shorts, did prove the advantage of using the Web as an
integral, cost-effective part of the development process. Now Comedy has
committed to using the Web to test several more shows it has in the portal.

"[The Web] is one of the key development resources we have
at our fingertips," says Comedy's programming president Lauren Corrao (who
leaves the network at the end of the month). "It offers us the opportunity to
see whether [potential talent] can write, act or direct. It is almost like they
can walk in the door already having proven that they can do certain things."

The network has three projects with roots in the Web in its
development pipeline, and a fourth where the network is using the Web as a
means of introducing a concept to viewers before deciding whether to send it to

Comedy has Workaholics
in the pilot phase, based on a Web series that ran on from the
sketch comedy troupe Mail Order Comedy. That show follows a trio of slackers
who spend their days working together and their nights partying together.

Animated series Ugly
is set to debut on the network in March, 2010, and is based
loosely on the Web show 5-On.

Atom, which is owned by the network, is also being used as a
means of testing out The Fuzz, which
takes the format of a crime procedural but sets it in a Sesame Street-esque
world where puppets and humans coexist. Comedy is chopping the pilot into four
or five chunks and releasing it as a series on this month.

"We knew The Fuzz
would make for a great Web short," Corrao says. "This was a way we [Comedy and
Atom] could both get something out of it."

Corrao says that the network would "absolutely" be using the
Web to test out programming ideas a la The
in the future.

"I think it is a great way to develop, it is low cost, there
is a lot of creative freedom and we are not putting up the same kind of money
we would be putting up for a television pilot," she says.

Finally, in the script phase of development, the network is
working with twin comedians the Sklar Brothers on a comedy set at a sports
talent management agency. The series would be very loosely based on the Sklars'
Web series Back On Topps, which was
set at the Topps trading card company. The show would likely feature cameos
from well known athletes making regular guest appearances.

Comedy may be one of the most aggressive networks in using
the Web to find talent and programming, but it is hardly alone. Turner's Adult
Swim announced that it would be adapting's Children's Hospital into a series, while the producers of the MTV Web
and mobile series Valemont plan on
pitching their show to the network as a full-length series, though sources say
that pitch has not yet taken place. Syfy was one of the earliest innovators in
the area: Sanctuary, now in its
second season, debuted on the Web in 2007. Comedy was also out front of the
tide with the animated series Lil' Bush
in 2007, which was ported over from mobile carrier Amp'd Mobile.

According to Corrao, no word has been made on whether or not
to bring Secret Girlfriend back for a
second season. The program averaged 1.5 million viewers per episode it's first