YouTube sponsors sketch contest

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NEW YORK -- Google Inc.'s YouTube said Monday that it is sponsoring a three-round sketch comedy competition in a partnership with PepsiCo's Sierra Mist product.

"Some of the best YouTube comedians use the episodic format, and they've been hugely popular as a result," said Jamie Byrne, head of product marketing at YouTube. "We've seen an evolution on YouTube from one-hit viral videos to people building passionate audiences that tune in to see every new video."

The competition, titled "YouTube Sketchies," will start Thursday and run for nine weeks. In the first round, an industry panel will pick 20 finalists. The YouTube community will then vote on a winner, and after two more rounds of sketches and voting, the winner will be revealed July 12.

The winning sketch group will receive a brand assignment and a production budget from Sierra Mist to create a comedy short that will be presented on the drink company's Web site in an effort to showcase its new Lemon Squeeze flavor.

Winners also will get to meet sketch group the Lonely Island and attend a screening of the Paramount Pictures film "Hot Rod," due Aug. 3. The Lonely Island were involved in the making of "Lazy Sunday," a mock rap music video that originally aired on "Saturday Night Live" in December 2005 and was subsequently viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube before NBC Universal asked the site to remove it.
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