Xbox zings Comedy Central stand-up app directly to TV

Following the iOS version, the cable comedy network isn't worried that bringing its app of thousands of comedy clips to television will steal the spotlight from its normal programming.

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Joan E. Solsman
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The CC:Stand-Up app for Xbox 360 Comedy Central

Timing is everything in comedy, and Viacom's Comedy Central network thinks now is the time to bring digital stand-up content to TV.

In a partnership with the Microsoft console, Comedy Central launched its CC:Stand-Up app on Xbox 360 Tuesday, bringing a library of 6,000 videos from more than 700 comedians straight to television for the first time.

The app is available for people with a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription, which typically costs $5 a month with a one-year commitment, although deals on the membership periodically crop up.

Ben Hurst, Viacom Entertainment Group's vice president of mobile and emerging platforms, told CNET that the Xbox app differs from the iPhone and iPad versions Comedy Central already rolled out by focusing more on long-form watching than on discovering new comedians and material.

He also said other devices were on the radar.

"We're looking opportunistically at all these different platforms, moving down the chain from biggest to smallest," he said. "We want to get digitally distributed content everywhere."

As they address viewer desire for online content and on-demand viewing, programmers must walk the tightrope of maintaining an on-air channel audience -- where viewing can be better measured and used to buttress higher ad rates -- while offering viewers the ability to watch content on the device of their choosing.

Hurst said that Comedy Central isn't worried about their latest strategy thwarting audience numbers for the network's on-air shows.

"We've now introduced fans to a new comedian or have gotten them excited to watch the new special. We view this as additive, not cannibalistic," he said.

The Internet is a trove of comedy video clips, though, meaning any new entrant faces a crowded field of competition. Besides popular sites like College Humor, which draws high-profile comedian contributors, and YouTube channels like Jenna Marbles, with more than 10 million subscribers, Comedy Central's own shows are available on Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu.

In the stand-up realm, Spotify Monday rolled out an app that promotes a library of spoken-word comic bits. Pandora set up comedy stations in 2011.

Hurst noted that Comedy Central is aided by its history as a source for stand-up since its founding more than two decades ago. "We are the biggest but also the highest quality out there," he said. "This is high-quality content and premium talent."

Hurst said the company is encouraged that when anyone tunes into clips on its app, they tend to watch many videos each time. "People just want to sit back and watch hours," he said.

An Android version of the CC:Stand-Up app is still in the works, the company said.

Earlier this month, Comedy Central launched a companion site to the stand-up app, called CC:Stand-up Direct, which sells unlimited streams and downloads of uncut, uncensored comic specials for $5 each. It took a page out of Louis C.K.'s book, who produced his "Live at the Beacon Theater" special himself and distributed it online in much the same way, to great success.