icn.pngIndependent Comedy Network is joining the growing ranks of startups intending to create video, rather than just aggregate it. But it hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of early efforts like FunnyorDie.

Built around talent from the stand-up comedy circuit, ICN.tv is working on a slate of 40 shows to launch this year, from which it hopes a few stars will emerge. The site will initially feature five shows.

ICN is attempting to build itself up to be something like a traditional studio, a place where professionals come to pitch their ideas and receive help with production and distribution. The focus is on shows that unfold over a series of episodes, rather than one-off hits like FunnyorDie’s “The Landlord.” Such efforts are “not substantive enough to make a real property,” says ICN founder Marc Campbell.

Campbell says there’s also a difference between ICN and other startups like 60frames or Sony’s Crackle, which create shows of their own. Rather than just churning out anything that works, ICN wants to create a distinct brand aimed at the same 18-34 age group that watches programs like the Daily Show. When considering pitches for shows, says Campbell, “we look at everything with the eye of what kind of shows fit the sensibilities of the audience.”

(By the way, see our recent story that lists the start-ups that offer screenwriters ways to produce content for video, now that the at the traditional Hollywood approach is breaking down.)

Although 40 shows sounds like a lot, it’s part of the strategy of allowing more content into the public eye than television ever could, and letting viewers whittle down the selection to their favorites.

The top prize for any show will remain a syndication that gets it onto a television station, a highly beneficial scenario both for the show’s actors and for a startup like ICN, which would retain some rights. That’s the view most similar startups also hold — Crackle, for one, considers itself a “path to Hollywood”.

None of the start-ups have accomplished that goal in a big way, but Campbell thinks the time isn’t far off. And once a show does make it from online to television, he says, “I think the floodgates will open,” making online content a must-have.

ICN has so far raised an angel investment. It plans to begin raising a first round of venture funding in a few months. Below is one of the first episodes of 2/8 Life, one of the five shows debuting today on ICN.

Update: ICN actually launches tomorrow. Until then, the video below will be their promo reel. 2nd update: It’s now launched, and we’ve placed two videos below: 2/8 Life and Annals.

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