No Joke: Cable Vets to Bow Comedy

Several former cable and pay-per-view executives hope operators find the humor — and value — in a new 24-hour network based on jokes.

Jokevision, specifically aimed at 18-to-34-year-old men within a broader base of adults 25 to 54, plans to air exclusive programming that features ordinary people from around the country telling their favorite gags within short and non-traditional vignettes, specials and series, said network management executives Stephen Cunningham and Jeff Rowland.

Jokevision hopes to capitalize on the reality-based programming trend by showcasing talented, undiscovered comedians, as well as ordinary people who have a flair for comedy and joke-telling.

"We haven't seen television concepts that accommodate a 500-channel universe," Cunningham said. "Because this concept moves very quickly and lends itself to impulse viewing, we feel it would be responsive to the niche nature of cable viewing than others that are programmed traditionally with set advertising and [ad] insertion times."

Late-night humor

Jokevision executives also said that the network may push the envelope in terms of language and controversial humor during the late-night hours.

While the privately financed network — created by broadcasting entrepreneur and industrialist Michael Vlock — doesn't have a planned launch date or distribution deals, Cunningham said the network's premise is no joke and would stand out in a increasingly crowed digital cable environment.

Cunningham, who was instrumental in launching cable services ValueVision (now Shop NBC) and Food Network, said Jokevision could be offered free to operators for a certain amount of time, although he said it's too early to determine the network's ultimate rate card.

Rowland, who in the 1990s produced several pay-per-view music events, including Woodstock '99, pointed to the popularity of reality-based shows, the sitcom genre and the success of Comedy Central as evidence as to why Jokevision will gain distribution.

R. Thomas Umstead

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.