Mining Comedy From the Internet

Jun 15, 2008  •  Post A Comment

FunnyorDie.com CEO Dick Glover is boosting revenue month to month at the Web video humor site, but his grand ambition is to create a comedy franchise that rivals the best work of “Saturday Night Live” back in the 1970s.
Mr. Glover has aces in his hand that other Web-video entertainment executives would kill for: a series of viral video hits, name-brand talent including Will Ferrell and a deal with HBO to create 10 half-hours of programming for airing on television.
That HBO partnership, which involves an investment in FunnyorDie by the premium cable channel, sheds light on Mr. Glover’s strategy for the Web site. He wants to create and distribute successful comedy on the Web, spin the talent off into their own successful brands, then exploit those assets offline where the real money still lies.
Hollywood and New York are awash in Web studios churning out entertainment, some for the love of the process, some hoping to hit it big. So far, only a few have risen above the status of cottage businesses, some buoyed by advertising deals or branded entertainment and product placement partnerships.
FunnyorDie rose above the crowd with early short “The Landlord,” featuring Mr. Ferrell. That clip pulled in more than 57 million views, which led to an influx of venture capital money.
The company aims to make the leap from the Web to TV with the HBO deal.
Mr. Glover said FunnyorDie will take “the voice, sensibility, attitude [and] talent and direct that toward TV” with new, yet-to-be-determined programming.
Reports have pegged HBO’s investment at a 10% stake in FunnyorDie, though Mr. Glover declined to confirm or deny that number. He also declined comment on how much HBO will be paying for the project.
FunnyorDie was founded by Mr. Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy and has since added Judd Apatow as a principal partner. The company launched other destinations, including food-centric EatDrinkorDie.com, video-game site PwnorDie.com and ShredorDie.com, featuring action sports content, all of which draw a wide array of advertisers.
The sites boast professional content from some of the biggest names in their fields (ShredorDie counts skating legend Tony Hawk in its roster of contributors), and nurtures an active community through its video ratings system. FunnyorDie alone has grown to average 3.2 million unique visitors per month.
FunnyorDie brings in revenue through its online advertising and varied offline endeavors, including merchandise, branded content for other companies and a recent comedy tour.
Although Mr. Glover declined to disclose specific numbers, he did mention that revenue “grows every month.”
Mr. Glover said the company’s nine-person ad sales and operations staff isn’t slated to expand. FunnyorDie has been able to thrive due in part to the way it has structured operations. The company has “built an incredible scalable platform,” he said.
Within the company, the different operating groups can be expanded where needed without adding staff other than content creators.


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