Upfront: IFC Tempts Advertisers With New Barrel of Laughs

A year after declaring itself TV’s primary destination for alternative comedy, IFC has upped the ante on its original programming efforts, slating four new off-kilter series for 2011-12.

In an upfront presentation held at New York’s cooler-than-thou Ace Hotel, IFC general manager and evp Jen Caserta took the wraps off the net’s newest batch of shows, a clutch of comedies that includes the pulpy goof Bullet in the Face; the budget travelogue Young, Broke & Beautiful; and the follicular follies docu-series Whisker Wars.

Also in the works is an unscripted ramble from Reveille titled Commercial Kings. The half-hour series follows a pair of indie filmmakers as they travel across the nation in a bid to create unforgettable spots for local auto dealers, garbage haulers and, in one case, a “green” burial service that touts an all-natural four-month decomposition process. It’s rot-tastic!

Broke and Commercial Kings kick off in June, while Whisker Wars is being primed for an August premiere.

In addition to the shows in production, Caserta told the lunchtime crowd that IFC is developing a variety showcase hosted by Comedy Death-Ray’s Scott Aukerman, who is also known as the creator of Funny or Die’s Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis. Also in the works: the Yinzer comedy Greg & Donny and Pointless, an existential game show that rewards obscure knowledge with crappy prizes.

Three original scripted comedies will return, including the Onion News Network, which begins its sophomore run of 16 episodes in October; the Fred Armisen/Carrie Brownstein phenom Portlandia (shooting begins this summer, ahead of a January 2012 season two premiere); and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, starring alt-comedy titans David Cross and Will Arnett.

IFC did not announce any further series acquisitions although the network went on a major spending spree a year ago. Among the cult faves on the network’s prime-time and late-night lineup are Judd Apatow’s Undeclared and Freaks & Geeks; Cross and Bob Odenkirk’s riotous HBO series Mr. Show With Bob and David; the deconstructionist classic The Larry Sanders Show; and The Ben Stiller Show.

“A year ago, we began focusing on creating original series that reflect our new brand position, Always On. Slightly Off,’” Caserta said. “Our disciplined focus has paid off…And our originals are resonating across all platforms.”

Having shifted its emphasis from screening uninterrupted indie films (Pulp Fiction, Bad Lieutenant, Trainspotting) to devoting prime time to half-hour comedy franchises, IFC opened the door to take in a great deal of additional advertising revenue. Whereas a single sponsor would support a weekly “Pulp Indies” film block, the traditional sitcom formats allow the network to sell more :30s.

Coupled with a rebounding ad market, the new-look IFC took in an estimated $23 million in ad sales revenue a year ago, up 26 percent from $18.2 million in 2009.

IFC reaches some 62.7 million U.S. households, per Cablevision’s fourth-quarter 2010 earnings statement. With an average sub fee of 20 cents per HH per month, the net takes in $150.5 million per year on the affiliate side of the ledger.