Comedy Central hosting comedy festival on Twitter

Comic Amy Schumer will join Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner for the five-day comedy festival from Comedy Central.
Comic Amy Schumer will join Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner for the five-day comedy festival from Comedy Central.

NEW YORK — Comedy Central will host a five-day comedy festival next week that includes a lineup of such legends as Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner alongside popular young comics Amy Schumer and the director Paul Feig.

But there will be no smoky comedy clubs. No lone microphones and stools positioned on stage. No two-drink minimum.

The festival will take place almost entirely on Twitter, with comedians posting video snippets of routines and round-tables­ and posting jokes using the hashtag ComedyFest.


The partnership between Comedy Central, a cable channel owned by Viacom, and Twitter represents the evolving relationship between television and social media. Twitter is often incorporated into programming, with viewers using the site as a second screen while watching live television. But slowly, Twitter is becoming an outlet on which to watch video.

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In January, Twitter introduced Vine, a video-sharing service that lets users post six-second clips — brevity that matches Twitter’s model of 140-character messages.

On Tuesday, as part of the festival, the comedian Steve Agee will host a ‘‘Vine Dining’’ party, telling stories in six-second videos. The cast of HBO’s ‘‘Veep’’ shares ‘‘vines’’ from the set, as does the cast of ABC’s hit ‘‘Scandal.’’ A&E puts 30-second videos of ‘‘Duck Dynasty’’ on Twitter and the entire third season of Fox’s ‘‘Raising Hope’’ had its debut on the site.

“It’s not just hashtags appearing on your TV screen, but TV content appearing in your Twitter feed,’’ said Debra Aho Williamson, a social media analyst at eMarketer.

For Comedy Central, the Twitter partnership is a small part of a larger strategy to become a branded entertainment company that does not rely just on nightly television viewing. In a changing media landscape, the channel’s series ‘‘The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’’ and ‘‘South Park,’’ and their young, mostly male audiences, have led the shift to online video viewing.


At least for now, Viacom makes the vast majority of its revenue from cable subscribers who watch television the old-fashioned way and the advertisers who pay to reach them there. The company must adapt to the changing ways viewers watch video, but they must also preserve profits.

For now, Comedy Central looks at the Twitter partnership as a marketing strategy. In the future, the channel could work with a sponsor to bring in ad revenue.

‘‘It’s the same way we’d market our comedy through a billboard a few years ago,’’ said Michele Ganeless, president of Comedy Central.

Ganeless has overseen Comedy Central’s push into other expansions of the brand, including consumer products such as DVDs and T-shirts related to shows and comedians.

Performers have been particularly ahead of the curve in embracing new ways to distribute stand-up acts that used to rely on cable television.


Last year, Louis C.K. sold a ‘‘Live at the Beacon Theater’’ special directly through his website and made $1 million in less than two weeks. That partly inspired Comedy Central to develop a website that lets comedians sell their stand-up specials directly to consumers (with the channel getting a cut). Customers can buy a stand-up special starting at $5 and stream it onto their television screens or mobile devices.

It remains to be seen how all these add-ons will ultimately affect Comedy Central’s audience and, in turn, its revenue.

‘‘I don’t think anybody is moving forward in the TV business or the brand business without finding ways to develop a true dialogue with consumers,’’ said Doug Herzog, president of Viacom Entertainment Group, which includes Comedy Central, Spike, and TV Land.

‘‘What we’re still discovering, and what will take a while,’’ he said, “is what exactly does that mean and what exactly does it add up to and how do you quantify it?’’