Cracked.com adding two Web series

New offerings center on pop culture topics, video games

Comedy Web site Cracked.com is working on two more original Web series as it ramps up its video offerings.

"After Hours" will feature discussions of offbeat pop culture topics, and "8 Bits" will poke fun at the world of video games.

The series, which target a core audience of males 18-34, are set to debut ahead of the second-season launch in September of Cracked's first original show, "Agents of Cracked," which spoofs the lives of online comedy content creators. Its first season, some episodes of which have been viewed more than 500,000 times on Cracked.com, is available on DVD.

"The success of 'Agents of Cracked' taught us a few things: First, our audience has a real appetite for a funny video series, and second, they are fans of some of our most recognizable talent, Michael Swaim and Dan O'Brien," said Oren Katzeff, vp and GM at Cracked owner Demand Media's Demand Entertainment unit. "Creating these new series gives our fans more of what they crave."

"8 Bits," created by Swaim and Abe Epperson, is set to debut in mid-May. It makes fun of the first-person shooter genre and features an appearance by Brea Grant of "Heroes." The next episode parodies the "Legend of Zelda" games.

"After Hours," created by Dan O'Brien and Jack O'Brien (no relation), is targeted for a late April or early May launch. Think a partly scripted, partly ad-libbed version of the "Reservoir Dogs" opening scene and its discussion of Madonna's "Like a Virgin."

"Why Back to the Future Has the Worst Ending in History," "Are Cereal Mascots Secretly Drug-Peddlers?" and "Which 80s Movie High School Would Have Sucked the Most?" are eyed as the topics of the first three episodes.

Cracked.com gained traction online after online media firm Demand Media acquired it in 2007 and dumped its long-running, ailing print edition. Cracked had been published since 1958, making it one of the oldest U.S. humor magazines besides MAD Magazine.

Like its parent Demand, Cracked has used cost-effective content production and online tools to boost traffic and visibility.

"We have reinvigorated an old media brand without a massive marketing budget and big-name stars," said Steven Kydd, a former Yahoo and Fox executive who's exec vp of Web content unit Demand Studios. "The new approach to building a media company in the digital age is to look at what audiences desire -- which we gauge from a variety of sources, including Google, Twitter and Facebook -- all in real time."

When Demand bought Cracked, its Web site had well fewer than 1 million unique users. According to data from the site's own tracking provider Omniture, Cracked had 6.5 million and 6.1 million uniques in January and February, respectively.

It uses a virtual writers room to develop and assign ideas to talent it works with and claims to create more original daily content than any competitor, including well-known comedy players College Humor and FunnyOrDie.com, which are backed by Barry Diller's IAC and the likes of Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow and HBO, respectively.
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