Comedy Central to offer Stewart, Colbert on Hulu

NEW YORK Tue Jun 10, 2008 2:40am EDT

Stephen Colbert reads passages from his new book ''I Am America (And So Can You!)'' during a book signing event in New York October 24, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Stephen Colbert reads passages from his new book ''I Am America (And So Can You!)'' during a book signing event in New York October 24, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc's Comedy Central will begin offering full episodes of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and the "Colbert Report" on Hulu.com on Tuesday as part of a test, reversing an earlier position that it would mainly focus on offering its shows on its own sites.

The deal to offer these popular shows on Hulu could lead to other Viacom content on the online video service, co-owned by General Electric's NBC Universal and News Corp.

"I think with success breeds success. It could open some other doors," Erik Flannigan, executive vice president of digital media at MTV Networks, said in a phone interview. MTV Networks is the Viacom division that runs the Comedy Central and MTV cable channels.

Comedy Central's two most popular shows also will be available in full-length on ComedyCentral.com, Flanagan said. Previously, only clips of the skits were available.

Flannigan said Comedy Central aimed to broaden its online audience. Already, Stewart and Colbert's send-up of U.S. politicians are frequently some of the most viewed clips on the web, particularly in the run-up to the November presidential elections.

"Hulu in many ways may put the shows in front of some people who might be more casual viewers but who might be interested in what's going on with the elections," Flannigan said.

Comedy Central will receive a percentage of ad sales sold by Hulu, Flannigan said.

The test also can be viewed as a coup for the months-old Hulu, which, despite early skepticism, has garnered fans among media companies and viewers.

In April, users watched more videos on Hulu and its partner distribution sites than all sites operated by broadcasters.

(Reporting by Kenneth Li; editing by Carol Bishopric)