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‘Dark’ goes from TV to Netflix link

Walter Latham special bows Sunday night on Comedy Central

Walter Latham is determined to find new routes on the increasingly busy highway of Web-to-TV traffic for content.

The African-American comedy impresario, who made his name on the “Original Kings of Comedy” tours and pics, has an hourlong standup special, “Comedy After Dark,” that bows Sunday night on Comedy Central. It will shortly afterward migrate to Netflix for a two-year license term. Special is headlined by Michael Blackson and features short sets by eight other up-and-coming urban comics.

Latham initially shot the special last year in Miami with the goal of distribbing it on his YouTube-funded Walter Latham Comedy channel. But after he saw the caliber of the performances, he decided to hold it back for TV with the intention of using that exposure to make it more valuable to Web outlets. Once he approached Netflix, it wasn’t hard to get a deal done — with the Netcaster’s only condition being that he land a TV premiere for it first.After two years, Latham will be able to bring the special back to his YouTube channel. In the meantime, he’s hoping that some of those comics break out in a bigger way, thus giving the special (and companion hours already in the works) more value.

“My model is to take some of my Internet programming, exploit it on TV, build awareness and brand equity and then bring it back to the Internet,” Latham told Variety. “I know how to build brands. … Now I’m able to raise money to make Internet programming, knowing that we’re going to take some of that programming exploit it on TV and go back to the Internet with bigger (licensing) deals.”

Latham’s YouTube channel, launched last fall, has been a good outlet for nurturing new talent and concepts, such as cheeky animated takes on famous jokes and standup riffs from Latham’s sizable archive. But he admits that gaining traction with regular subscribers has been harder than he anticipated. He’s hopeful Netflix’s recommendation algorithms will be a boon to raising awareness of the availability of “Comedy After Dark” performers among users who are already searching out other urban comedy stars.

“We reach a smaller audience,” Latham said. “We do African-American comedy that is not broad, and not particularly mainstream. It hits a small segment of the (viewing) audience, but we really hit them.”

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