The contest follows last fall's music competition, YouTube Underground, sponsored by Cingular. Jamie Byrne, YouTube's head of product marketing, said the site wants to recognize and reward community members who participate in its most popular genres, and that additional competitions in other genres are on the drawing board for later this year.
In addition to the popular YouTube category of sketch comedy, The Sketchies also build off the increasing popularity of episodic Web programming--YouTube's hot contributors in this area include Smosh, Chad Vader and The Lonely Island, who have parlayed their online fame into the upcoming Paramount movie "Hot Rod." "Our viewers love to find new content creators who they can follow from episode to episode," noted Byrne.
Finding such new talent for comedy video series is one of the aims of The Sketchies, with contributors not only getting the chance for community recognition but also to win the latest production equipment, attend a VIP screening of "Hot Rod" with The Lonely Island, and enter the online ad creative business--the winner will receive a brand assignment and production budget from Sierra Mist Lemon Squeeze to create an original comedy short to run on SierraMist.com.
A panel of top Hollywood agents will review all initial entrants and choose 20 for presentation to the YouTube community. The community's votes will determine 10 second-round entrants, who will provide the next episode of their series, with five becoming finalists and putting a third series episode at the mercy of the community. The nine-week competition ends July 12.
Byrne, adding that contests have been reaching a critical mass, said: "We're really excited by how marketers are increasingly using the platform to engage consumers."