MTV launches Atom.com

Atom TV will also run on Comedy Central

NEW YORK -- MTV Networks on Thursday officially launched comedy destination Atom.com, a re-branding of its AtomFilms property.

The site counts MTVN's Comedy Central as its exclusive partner and it has a show, Atom TV, on the channel, which will air at 2 a.m. on Monday nights.

Atom.com has been conceived out of MTVN's parent Viacom's 2006 acquisition of AtomFilms. The site, which was founded by MTVN's global digital media president Mika Salmi, was known for its short-form films along with its comedy content. But with the re-launch, the AtomFilms banner will be retired along with the film focus.

Atom.com will launch with four original series, including "Border Patrol," which counts Ivan Reitman among its producers and is already in development at Comedy Central. Other series include the animated "Steven & Stephen" from Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim ("Time & Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job!"), Waverly Films' "Stickman Exodus," and "Benny, Escaped Convict" from "Scrubs" writer Ryan Levin. The site also has "dozens" more shows in the works, including one featuring "CSI: Miami" actor Jon Togo.

Speaking here at a press conference, Erik Flannigan, executive vp, digital media for MTVN Entertainment Group, said Atom would be the company's "punk rock label." Atom.com's GM Scott Roesch said the site is not intended to be an incubator for TV, rather it's aimed to be the "leading network for original digital comedy."

Flannigan acknowledged, though, that making the site a success will not be easy in a hits-driven Web culture. High-profile comedy sites that have recently been shuttered include Turner's SuperDeluxe, NBC's Dotcomedy and the HBO/AOL joint venture This Just In.

"We are under no illusions that making original comedy for the Web is easy," Flannigan said.

Working in the site's favor is the fact that it can build on AtomFilms' existing audience, which, according to comScore, numbered nearly 2 million unique visitors in May.

Atom will also be able to draw on Comedy Central's resources, said Flannigan. "Atom isn't living and dying on these one-off hits," he said.

The site will also be featured on iTunes, AOL, Bebo, Dailymotion, Veoh and xBox Live and it will have mobile distribution through Verizon's VCAST and AT&T. Atom content will also appear on MTVN's Logo and Spike TV networks, in addition to Comedy Central.

Verizon is also the site's launch sponsor. The mobile carrier has several banner ads on the site's home page and it has bought out the overlay video ads for the first one or two weeks.

In addition to the professionally-produced content, Atom will also feature user-generated content. Each week, users will vote on a top amateur video, with the winning auteur receiving a $500 advance, site promotion and a revenue sharing contract.
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