NEW YORK--Two years after acquiring it, MTV Networks has shaped Atom Films into Atom.com, a sister site to its Comedy Central network dedicated to short-form, Web-based comedy.
Executives from the Viacom-owned MTV Networks held a press conference here on Thursday to kick off the new site, which Executive Vice President of Digital Media Erik Flannigan described as "our punk-rock label...where you're purposely encouraging development that's supposed to (expletive) with the system and break down boundaries."
Along with four new original Web series commissioned by Comedy Central, which range from an animated show about conjoined twins connected at the naughty bits to a live-action series about three clueless slackers who attempt to be militia guards at the U.S.-Mexican border, Atom.com welcomes user-generated submissions. Select videos will be featured in a weekly "Upload Showdown," and winners will become "pro" content creators on Atom.com and have access to additional Comedy Central resources like a spot on a new late-night televised program, Atom TV, a sort of week-in-review special about the site.
Atom TV, which premiered Tuesday morning at 2 a.m., is "jukebox-style, proudly low-budget, (and) super-late-night," according to Scott Roesch, general manager of Atom.com. Eventually, Atom.com will percolate into video-on-demand cable television, where Atom Films had a presence in its early days. Ideally that'll happen later this summer.
More Web shows are on the way, too, including an "advertorial" series called Agency, in which terrible advertisements for real brands are created by an incompetent, fictitious ad agency.
Online comedy video sites are a dime a dozen, but Roesch said that because of the ties to Comedy Central, Atom.com has an immediate lift above the fray. The new site has more than 20,000 videos in its library already, and predecessor AtomFilms.com pulled in more than 1.9 million unique visitors monthly, which execs say is more than online comedy brethren FunnyOrDie, SuperDeluxe, and The Onion combined. Built on Viacom's Flux social platform, Atom.com also aims to be a community site of sorts.
There's a history to it. In 2006, MTV Networks acquired Atom Films, home to online indie hits like Gerbil in a Microwave, along with Shockwave and AddictingGames, and Atom Films founder Mika Salmi became head of MTV's overall digital operations. While the short-form films site had some science fiction and horror hits, too, it was comedy that turned into the real successes, and that's why the company has decided to rebrand it as a comedy-only site. "In the online viewing experience, you've got to grab the viewer immediately," Roesch said, explaining that online video as a whole is best suited to comedic styles.
"There's not a lot of viral tearjerkers," Flannigan added, saying that Web comedy is now an essential part of American youth culture. "There is a social currency in your knowledge of and your passing along of short-form comedy."