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Caserta: IFC Brings 'Indie Perspective' to Comedy

Beverly Hills, Calif.--When the IFC was looking in 2010 for a new tagline that paid homage to but also move beyond its Independent Film Channel past, network head Jennifer Caserta knew what she wanted when she saw it. In a public conversation Tuesday at the Paley Center for Media, Caserta, president and general manager of IFC, described to B&C editor-in-chief Melissa Grego being presented the final proposals for potential rebranding options following months of meetings and work.

“It was like three tag lines, presentations in when ‘Always On Slightly Off’ hit the conference room table,” Caserta said. “I was like, ‘That’s it. Stop. No more.’ The people I was working with were very dedicated people who were working on this a long time, the marketing team. They were like, ‘But there’s more to show.’ I said, ‘Stop. Do not go past this moment. This is it.'" She added, “It’s very rare that you come across something that is so right."

In an hour-long conversation that focused on the evolution of IFC from a movie network to a brand focusing on comedy, Caserta emphasized her background as a marketer—she ran marketing at IFC before being promoted to her current role—and how it has influenced her decision-making as a network chief. Evolving IFC, she said, was a decision that born out of a need to sharpen the focus of the network’s brand.

“The indie perspective was really something that we could hang our hat on,” she said. “We could transition and move from independent film to an indie perspective. People who typically like that kind of content were interesting, different people who carried that over into their other likes and passions,” she added. “Saying it was not actually as easy as it might seem. You know, I can’t put the tagline, ‘Shit you can’t find anywhere else,’ on the network.”

Caserta discussed the importance of individual projects such as sketch series Portlandia, now going into its fifth season, and miniseries The Spoils of Babylon, produced by Funny or Die. The latter she cited as an example of how the network is willing to work with the right partners on the right projects despite the recent trend in the industry toward networks owning their own programming via their studios.

"We’re not going to turn down a project just because it has a studio attached to it,” Caserta said.

Grego asked whether Caserta has had conversations with her bosses at parent company AMC Networks about acquiring Funny or Die or The Onion. Both digital-centric comedy production companies were reported in November to be up for sale. Caserta did not deny that such a conversation had taken place.

“There are often times when we’ll have just interesting conversations or brainstorms and say, If you could have one thing, what would it be?” Caserta said. “And they’re always kind of big ideas.”

Caserta touted IFC’s ability to attract big name talent such as Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell and David Cross, but said that one of her goals for the coming year is to see the network launch new comedy stars.

"I would love to see us create names and create new comedic talent,” Caserta said.