Funny business from HBO, AOL
EmptyTime Warner divisions HBO and AOL are collaborating to launch a comedy Web site, This Just In, early next year, marking the first time advertisers will be able to work with the premium cable channel.
The site, www.thisjustin.com, will replace the existing AOL comedy channel in the first quarter. Although AOL Media Networks will sell the ads on the site, marketers will be able to associate themselves with an HBO property for the first time in the company's 34-year history.
This Just In will focus on current events-related humor, using a blog format and exclusive video content. Specific programming and talent information has yet to be determined.
"This venture will leverage AOL's online expertise and HBO's established reputation for comedy to provide a unique engaging site for audiences across the Web," said Jim Bankoff, executive vp consumer and publisher services at AOL.
The site will not offer current HBO original programming, but a source close to the network said archival stand-up footage from the channel might be made available there. In addition, This Just In will serve as an "incubator" for HBO and the destination's content might be used on the regular television channel, HBO On Demand and HBO Mobile.
"Our goal is to create a robust destination that can have the potential of becoming part of the 'water cooler' pop culture like many of our network programs have become," said Carmi Zlotnick, HBO executive vp new media programming group.
HBO has secured deals with talent in recent months that have come with unspecified new-media components that could play a role in This Just In. The network confirmed this week that it has tapped former Rocketboom anchor Amanda Congdon for contributions both on-air and online. HBO this year also announced separate multifaceted deals with comedian Dane Cook and Simmons Lathan Media Group, creators of the HBO series "Def Comedy Jam," that are said to involve digital aspects.
HBO has a long history of social satire on its air, going back to the 1980s series "Not Necessarily the News" to current offerings like "Real Time With Bill Maher."
The joint venture with AOL represents HBO's growing presence on alternative platforms, a high-priority growth area for the company in the years ahead because of the maturation of its core subscription business. HBO already makes some existing content available through iTunes and Cingular Wireless on a pay basis, but this is the network's first original-only presence.
"This platform is ideal for showcasing new forms of entertainment to today's savvy audience and allows us to discover fresh talent and ideas indigenous to new media," Zlotnick said.
Steve Stanford, the founder and former CEO of comedy site Icebox.com and co-founder and former chief operations officer of cell phone service Amp'd Mobile, has been tapped to run the site.
"This is about creating a new kind of entertainment experience that couldn't exist in a noninteractive medium," Stanford said. "We will be trying new things and taking risks in the process of developing great Internet comedy."