Comedy Central Is Serious About Internet

Times staff writer

For those who find humor in the plague, there's the Internet.

At least that's what Comedy Central hopes as it introduces its 2006 slate of new shows today for its online channel MotherLoad.

The eight Web-only shows are another sign that big media companies increasingly see the Internet as a viable way not only to promote their on-air shows but also to launch shorter programs ill-suited for TV.

The MotherLoad lineup includes such series as "All Access: Middle Ages," billed as the inside story behind the coolest crusades and "most awesomely bad plagues," and "Golden Age," which finds out what happened to retired cartoon characters. (For Jerome, a gumdrop from the concession-stand ads before movies, it's substance abuse.)

MTV Networks, Comedy Central's parent, has been hunting for filmed and animated shorts. After failing to capture viewers with online video offerings during the dot-com boom, big media are jumping back in.

"This side of the business has been dormant for six, seven years," International Creative Management agent Michael Rizzo said. "Now the studios have come into it with a much more mature eye."

The numbers are still small. During its best week, in early December, MotherLoad attracted 109,000 viewers. "The economics are different because TV is a very mature business, and the dollars are bigger," said Jason Hirschhorn, chief digital officer for MTV Networks. "But online is becoming ... lucrative."

Comedy group Littleman Creative is developing its second MotherLoad show, the Middle Ages parody. Possible episodes include "Worst Breakups: Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn." One thing member Nick Kroll discovered: People like online comedy.

"People seem to be desperate for content," he said, "because they're terribly sad at work."

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