Talent Search Goes Online

As you've probably realized by now, the latest example of how the Internet is turning traditional TV models upside down and inside out is that network executives are now trawling online video sites such as YouTube, Google, and Break for new talent.

That's because the Web is the great equalizer and anyone can get their foot in the virtual door now, says Lou Wallach, senior vice president of original programming and development for Comedy Central. Wallach received an unsolicited e-mail pitch for "Balloon Heads" last year, and now the series is set to launch this fall on the network's ad-supported broadband site.

The advertising implications of the new talent hunt are broad. Networks have dipped into alternative outlets like broadband because of the ad dollars flowing there.

In addition to Comedy Central's "Balloon Heads," MTV has shot a pilot created by a writer found on a user-generated video site; NBC has inked a deal with Brooke Brodack, a YouTube user who was discovered by "Last Call" host Carson Daly; E! Networks is working out a deal for a project with a comedian discovered online; and G4 is considering spinning off its "Happy Tree Friends" segment from "The Late Night Peep Show" into its own half-hour show. The creators were discovered in G4's regular online animation searches.

Having more venues for programs as a result of online channels and mobile TV means that networks are no longer confined to stretching a funny two-minute bit into 22 minutes. Instead, they can run snack-size content online or on cell phones, says Tony DiSanto, executive vice president of series development and animation for MTV and MTV2, which discovered on-air host Andy Milonakis online two years ago.
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