Remember AtomFilms? An icon ahead of its time. At this point it would have been pushing north of 80 in internet years, but the scrappy video startup from 1998 was one of the first to introduce a platform for uploading and sharing short films and funny videos, well before YouTube’s grand ascendancy. It spawned a whole company of sister sites like Addicting Games and Shockwave.com, that all fell under the Atom Entertainment banner.
Then YouTube got big in a hurry, and when Google ponied up $1.65 billion in 2006 to acquire the booming video site, media giant Viacom went shopping for its own rival to fend off the rise of its rampant copyright nemesis. $200 million later, it had snatched up the seven-year-old upstart Atom Entertainment, and relaunched AtomFilms as Atom.com—Viacom’s answer to YouTube.
Now it appears after years of the cold (and hot) war between parent companies Viacom and Google—which Google effectively won both in and out of court—that the Atom banner will no longer be Viacom’s flag in the online comedy game.
We are hearing from multiple sources that the company is folding its Atom team into the stronger Comedy Central Digital unit, with comedycentral.com moving into the flagship position.
Atom.com struggled to break through into the mutli-million unique visitors a month that newer comedy rivals like Break.com and Funny or Die achieved. Its regular slates of original comedy series like Streamy-winner The Legend of Neil and the recent standout Video Game Reunion were able to draw millions of views each, but many floundered and failed to recoup production costs from ad share revenue. It was also held back by the lack of a large base of highly viral user-generated content, that its comedy rivals have counted on.
We reached out to Atom and Comedy Central for more information, and as of this posting they have not commented. We are hearing that several video creators with series on the site were given the full rights to their series back earlier this summer, including some of Atom’s most popular originals. Now today some more creators were notified via email that Atom will no longer be hosting their series and that all ad revenue sharing will cease.
It’s not clear about the fate of the Atom.com site itself, which has updated its logo to read “Comedy Central Originals.” Staff positions are also up in the air, but no layoffs that we are hearing at this point.
More updates on this story as we get them.
Until then, a look back at Atom.com’s Top 5 most popular original videos:
Possum Death Spree – The Game
(embedding not available for this one)
Created by: Atom
Legend of Neil, Season 1, Ep. 1 — The Beginning
Created by: effinfunny
Hot Sluts, Ep 1
Created by: AD Miles
Star Wars Gangsta Rap: Chronicles
Created by: Bent TV
HellHoles, Episode 2
Created by: Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin