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The Onion Takes on ESPN

Being funny is serious business.

Onion Sports Network - Sportsdome
Source: Comedy Central
Onion Sports Network - Sportsdome

Tuesday night The Onionhopes to peel back a layer of success by leaping from popular web site to the coveted spot leading into "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.

The Onion's "SportsDome" will be a half-hour spoof of ESPN SportsCenterairing every Tuesday night at 10:30PM/ET, complete with hopped-up anchors and seizure-inducing graphics.

Actual athletes will occasionally appear, like Ronde Barber.

SportsCenter can already be pretty funny, whether intentionally or not. Can "SportsDome" kick it up a notch? Here's an example of what to expect, in a story called "Packers Fan Announces He Will Return to Drinking For Another Season".

In the funny business of television, The Onionis gambling it can cross over the very small screen to the 52-inch HD television. "People are going to be impressed," says Marc Lieberman, The Onion's vice president for business development. The company's sports division posted it's first video in April to 2007. Back then, creating video clips "was a huge investment for the company" requiring sets, graphics, talent. Now moving to cable television is costing more money, but probably not as much as you think. "We work incredibly hard to keep our costs down and make it look like a high-cost video."

Why move to TV now?

The Onionbelieves the product is finally good enough. "Every year, we've been saying, 'Do we go to TV?'" Lieberman says. "'We're not ready, we're not ready,'" he says was always the answer. That changed this year, when the company believed it could create a weekly half hour worth watching. "We call it 'The Onion Way' — when we feel it stands up for The Onion brand."

Lieberman says Comedy Central has bought the show for a ten-episode season. The two sides have also collaborated on a new web site, the Onion Sports Network, in an agreementguaranteed through June. Also, on Monday, the eve of SportsDome's debut, they bought the BCS hashtag on Twitter, scooping Tostitos. "Comedy Central paid for it," says Lieberman. "I have no idea how much it cost."

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