TV comedy breaks out of the mold

MTV, IFC discuss programming at N.Y. television fest

Evolution is hot topic at TV fest

NEW YORK -- Traditional sitcoms may be less prevalent these days, but there is room and audience appetite for TV comedy in the digital age, industry executives said here Tuesday.

Brent Haynes, senior vp series development, East Coast, at MTV, and Debbie DeMontreux, IFC TV senior vp original programming, discussed the state and outlook of the funny business during a panel titled "The Future of Comedy" at the annual New York Television Festival.

The IFC network is focused on alternative, "untraditional," single-camera comedies for an 18-34 male demo, DeMontreux said.

MTV, meanwhile, is focusing on "anything that's funny" -- whether sketch, scripted or reality driven, Haynes said.

"Comedy is certainly the driving force of the Internet" and has become more important for MTV, which now also has its own comedy development team, he said.

The MTV exec also said reality TV has changed comedy, with the network looking for ways to make things at least seem true or authentic.

So, what is he unlikely to like? Extremely wacky characters or a cooking or other theme show with comedy or comedians added in. Comedy must come first, Haynes said. Asked about his interest in animation projects, Haynes said it is one area MTV has been looking to push into, but carefully given the high cost.

Asked about her interest in foreign shows, DeMontreux mentioned IFC had "The IT Crowd." But would the network make U.S. versions of foreign shows? "If we had money, yes we would," she quipped.