MySpace, TBS Sponsor Video Comedy Contest

The competition is heating up for online video talent. Following Yahoo's launch of a video talent contest on Monday, TBS and MySpace on Wednesday jointly announced a separate video competition focusing on stand-up comedy.

Both come on the heels of YouTube Underground, a contest run by video-sharing site YouTube in which bands submitted videos from Oct. 2 through Oct.18 for users to vote on.

The contests underscore the growing battle for audience share and amateur talent among the Web's three biggest video outlets.

In the Stand-Up or Sit Down Comedy Challenge, aspiring comics will compete for a $50,000 prize by submitting performance videos for MySpace users to rate. The top five finalists will then be invited to appear in a one-hour special hosted by comedian George Lopez and filmed at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. The show will be broadcast on TBS on Nov. 17.

After the TV special, viewers can go to the contest profile page on MySpace to vote for their favorite comic. The winner will be announced during TBS' simulcast of the Comic Relief 2006 special on Nov. 18. In addition to the $50,000 in cash and other prizes, the winner gets a development deal that involves pitching show ideas to TBS.

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Josh Brooks, vice president of content and programming for MySpace, said the contest was a way to encourage and reward the site's comedic talent. MySpace, which launched a dedicated comedy channel in July, now counts 15,000 members registered as comics. "We've just watched this comic community grow since launching it five months ago, and this just felt like a natural thing to do," said Brooks.

Through the TBS development deal, the winner potentially gets a "launching pad for them to develop their own show and have a team of people to work on their material with them," he added.

But Brooks doesn't necessarily view the contest as a step toward paying for comic material posted on MySpace. "We're trying to keep it real and raw because that's how all up-and-coming comics develop, and I think MySpace is a great distribution channel for them," he said.

Yahoo will also award a $50,000 prize in its competition, inviting contestants to upload videos showing off their best talents. The five finalists in the "Yahoo Talent Show," created with Embassy Row, will then compete in a series of creative video challenges. Yahoo users will vote to select the winner, who will get to produce their own online show on Yahoo, along with the cash.

Rather than money, the four winning bands in the YouTube Underground contest will receive a host of prizes including a live appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Nov. 29, new equipment from Gibson Guitar and Epiphone, and the chance to perform live at a New York City location.

Meanwhile, AOL has its own video contest going, aimed at spotting talent early. Through its teen portal Red, AOL invited teens ages 13 to 17 to submit videos of their pilot episode for an original online series. The winner, to be named on Nov. 6, gets $10,000 and the chance to create and star in three episodes of their series to air on AOL Red.

But it may not be long before budding online auteurs expect more than occasional cash prizes for their contributions. The explosion of video talent contests coincides with United Talent Agency creating a digital media unit to seek out and represent promising video talent on the Web, according to a New York Times story that ran Wednesday.

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