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Hollywood pros to launch online video site

When it debuts Tuesday on the Web, My Damn Channel will become the latest attempt by Hollywood professionals to cash in on the huge popularity of online video. Comedian Harry Shearer, filmmaker David Wain and music producer Don Was, among others, also hope to find creative freedom seldom offered by traditional media companies.

The site is the brainchild of former MTV and CBS Radio executive Rob Barnett, who believes Internet audiences want to see professionally produced shows other than network TV fare.

“The old media companies don’t know how to program for this medium,” Barnett said. “There is a focus on reruns and outtakes, and I don’t think that cuts it.”

Shearer, who provides the voices for several characters on “The Simpsons” TV show, will produce a weekly political and pop-culture satire show for the site. Was, who has produced records for Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt, will host a music interview show with actor Paul Reiser.

Wain, writer and director of the upcoming film “The Ten,” starring Jessica Alba and Paul Rudd, will produce 10 comedy shorts.

Barnett points to the buzz created by the Will Ferrell video “The Landlord,” which helped launch Ferrell’s Web site, “FunnyorDie.com,” as an example of video Web opportunities.

According to the site, the video has been viewed more than 40 million times.

My Damn Channel will syndicate its videos on other Internet sites and collect revenue from advertising. The site has already signed a distribution deal with YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc.

The site is backed by Okapi Venture Capital. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

Jupiter Media analyst David Card said there is a growing demand for amateur and professional video on the Web.

Still, even videos from pros must find an audience, which can be difficult without an enormous amount of promotion.

“You still need to cut through the clutter and sign some major distribution deals,” Card said.

Shearer said the Web provides huge creative opportunities when compared to traditional networks and studios.

“If you walk into any of those places today, you will sooner or later be smothered by network creative input,” Shearer said. “And unless you have made the studios about a billion dollars, your project will be creative inputted to death.”


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