Comedy in demand

Big market not being catered for, says TV boss

There is a huge demand for TV comedy just waiting to be tapped, the head of one of America’s most successful cable channels has claimed.

Just five per cent of American airtime is given over to sitcoms, according to TBS president Steve Koonin, yet 80 per cent of young viewers say having a laugh is the most important thing in their day.

‘Comedy is becoming harder to find – but people need it more,’ he said in his keynote speech to the Just Comedy conference in Montreal. ‘Comedy is a magnet for young people. It attracts them in incredible numbers.’

He said the so-called ‘millennials’ – the young generation who watch comedy online or on mobile devices as readily as they will on TV – were an ‘optimistic’ age group who needed to be catered for.

His network – which offers a combination of repeats of such shows as Family Guy, Sex And The City and Seinfeld alongside original programming – is watched by viewers with an average age of 33, a decade below that of the youngest network, Fox.

And he has also sought new revenue streams for his comedy shows, including product placement and ‘bitcoms’, in which stands-ups deliver 30-second monologues about a sponsor’s product.

‘It gives comedians a national exposure and the chance to link their comedy with a brand,’ he claimed.

Koonin also announced that his network would be backing a new Just For Laughs comedy festival in Chicago in the summer of 2009, to be headlined by Ellen De Generes.

Here is his speech:

Published: 17 Jul 2008

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