American Comedy Awards Goes Online

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Event Webcasting specialist ProWebCast and George Schlatter Productions hope to bring the nationally televised 14th Annual American Comedy Awards to the Internet with the help of a bevy of sponsors.

The awards is a two-hour event that presents awards to professional comics in standup, television and film along with a lifetime achievement award, given this year to Steve Martin. The event was taped on Feb. 6 and will be shown on Fox Network affiliates on March 23 from 8 to 10 p.m. EST.

Beginning 30 minutes before the broadcast, viewers will be able to visit and to choose one of five simultaneous camera feeds to watch. Viewers can select from The Green Room, Backstage Area, Pressroom, Television Control Room and the Fox television feed, each with celebrity hosts. Each camera will have hot buttons linking viewers to advertisers' home pages. There also will be an advertiser-supported Webcast after the show from the Improv that will not be on broadcast TV.

"There has never been anything like this before," said Crawford Grimsley, CEO of ProWebCast. "Never before has anyone used so many cameras and had so much marketing and advertising availability for an event like this on the Internet. We really feel like we are setting the groundwork for other events in the methods and models we are giving advertisers to reach this audience."

Grimsley hopes to entice 12 companies to support the four Internet-only camera feeds, with one title sponsor and two supporting sponsors per feed. For $75,000, the four title sponsors will get a prominent banner on the page, repeated announcement of sponsorship by on-air talent, four 30-second commercials and a 15-second commercial lead-in when the event is archived at the sites. The supporting sponsors pay $25,000 for a smaller banner, two 30-second spots and a similar announcement of sponsorship. ProWebCast also offers its commercial production arm to smaller companies who see this as a unique way to potentially reach millions of viewers.

The event itself will be marketed by two agencies through online, print and television ads as well as repeated mention during the telecast.

The awards show and the simultaneous Webcast were the brainchild of television veteran George Schlatter, who created "Laugh-In," "Real People" and "The Judy Garland Show," and worked with television production company Carsey-Werner on "The Cosby Show." Schlatter's production company owns the American Comedy Awards and now specializes in event television broadcasting.

"Everybody I know is talking about the Web, so I read about it and said we ought to do that," said Schlatter, whose American Comedy Awards site gets as many as 90,000 unique visitors a day. "I talked to a bunch of people and everybody said that everyone in television they know wants to get into Webcasting, but nobody is really doing it with the right product. I really think Porno and jokes built the Internet so the comedy awards is that right product. This was definitely an adventure."

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