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Comedy Central Taps VOD Web Vein

Fully embracing video-on-demand, Comedy Central will offer episodes from two of its more popular series through the Internet video-streaming company

The deal, which comes on the heels of a similar VOD agreement with In Demand, is part of an aggressive Internet play by the basic-cable network that will eventually include streamed original content on its own site, will offer downloads of two Comedy animated series: South ParkandDr. Katz: Professional Therapist, said Ken Locker, the network's senior vice president of enterprises and new media. will stream six early episodes ofSouth ParkandDr. Katz-which no longer runs on the network-for a $2.50 two-day rental fee or a purchase price of $4.95 per episode.

The Internet company will encode and encrypt the selected programs, provide territorial-rights management and digital distribution and process electronic-commerce transactions for the network, executives said. All episodes can be viewed via the Windows Media Player.

Though Locker would not say how many buys the shows will generate via the Internet, he did say the service will provide some insight into the viability of Internet VOD.

" has been very aggressive to initiate PPV on the Internet, and this is an interesting experiment for us to explore the commercial viability of VOD over the Internet and to see how users react to it," Locker said.

The deal is the second VOD experiment for Comedy Central. Last August, the network reached a deal through which In Demand will distribute 25South Parkepisodes through the PPV network's VOD service, which is currently being tested at several systems.

"These titles from Comedy Central are very popular, and we expect the titles will be desirable to consumers over cable," In Demand senior vice president of programming and development Dan York said.

The agreement also starts an aggressive Internet push for the basic-cable network, which reaches 54.5 million subscribers. Locker said the network's service would feature new content from its existing shows, as well as original programs that may eventually run on the network.

Comedy plans to work with producers of the network's original shows to create Web-exclusive extensions of plot lines and characters, according to Locker. In addition, the network's online department will create online "open mike" opportunities for new comedy talent and focus on building a strong community base that allows users to become "collaborators" by sharing their favorite comedy sites. gets an average of 17 million to 20 million hits per month, and 83 percent of its target 25-to-34 male demographic uses the Internet an average of 17 hours per week, Locker noted. That makes the site another means to build the brand and deliver Comedy's programming content, he said.

"We want to own comedy on the Internet," Locker said. "Our audience is an Internet-savvy group that also wants to be cognizant of how the Web will be creating new comedy content."

In the near future, Locker said the network may integrate its content into other technologies, such as wireless phones or other advanced audio/video formats. For example, Comedy will look to deploy original content in short-form segments for personal-digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones by the second half of 2001.

"We'll be a very dynamic site, and we'll surprise a lot of people with our new innovations," he said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.