From FMMC0104
Revision as of 20:00, 4 November 2010 by Alice Lin (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

Comedy Central

Industrial Analysis

History and Ownership

Comedy Central was launched in 1990 after Time Warner merged Comedy Channel, which had been part of HBO, with Viacom's, MTV Network's "Ha!". The new channel was owned 50/50 by Time Warner and Viacom. In April of 2003 Viacom bought out Time Warner's (now AOL Time Warner) 50% stake in the channel for $1.225 billion.[1] Today, Comedy Central is owned and is a registered trademark of, Comedy Partners, a wholly-owned division of Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks. Comedy Central is an essential part of MTV Netowork's growing cable portfolio that also includes MTV, Nickelodeon, VH-1 and TV Land. [2] The current President of the Channel, Michele Ganeless who has been in her role since 2007. Former President Doug Herzog, who now is the president of all of MTV Networks, said about Gainless, "She’s one of the key architects of Comedy Central and she’s one of the true leaders to take it into its next phase.” [3]

Comedy Central first showed up on American Televisions on April 1, 1991. Throughout the 90's the popularity of the channel grew and successful programming such as "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and "Short Attention Span Theater," became staples for the channel. 1993 saw the premier of "Out There," the first ever all-gay comedy television special. They furthered their trailblazing ways with original programming such as "Win Ben Stein's Money" a popular game show before the days of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." The 90's also saw the channel have success with acquired programming such as "Saturday Night Live" and "Whose Line Is It Anyway?". Though they received a smaller budget from Viacom and Time Warner than other channels, such as MTV and HBO, they consequently were given more freedom for programming. This allowed for the development of crude shows such as "South Park", which in 1998, received an 8.6 rating, the highest rated series episode in basic cable history at the time. [4] Comedy Central has become more mainstream in the 21st century with its use of political satire on hit talk shows: "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report"; and the cutting edge clip show "Tosh.o". Comedy Central has continued to keep up with market innovation debuting Comedy Central HD in January of 2009. [5] The channel has also extended itself to ten localized international markets, including Germany, Italy, the UK, and starting in 2011, Israel. [6]


Target Audiences

Comedy Central's targets audiences ranging from the ages of 18-49, highly concentrating on adults and men. Viewers of Comedy Central are not distracted easily, ranking Comedy Central among the top cable networks in key demos where the viewers are "paying full attention” to its programs. [7]  Comedy Central aired the two highest-rated original series on basic cable in the age group 18-34 among the men with South Park and The Sarah Silverman Project. (2008) [8]  Shows like South Park has gained an wider audience than it's intended target audience of 18-39 males; the age now ranges from 16-50, which males aged 18-24 still claiming top spot.[9]  Though South Park carries a parental guidance rating of TV-MA for mature audiences 17 and up, there are censored episodes which are rated TV-14 to reach the younger teens. 

Advertising & Promotion

With constant promotions and reminders of upcoming shows, Comedy Central is able to reach viewers through the popular social networkings of Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Comedy Central has expanded to the mobile web, offering accessibility to the Website, providing stand-ups and jokes along with South Park exclusives all on your mobile phone.  Besides reaching out through the mobile web, Comedy Central has also taken mobile applications under their belt. Comedy Central was using a SMS/text-based delivery jokes service before they developed an iPhone app that allows users to subscribe to their Joke of the Day service through the downloadable application. 

Comedy Central has pushed out a Daily Show widget that can be posted to Facebook, MySpace, blogs and anywhere else on the Web. This widget carries a minute-long recap of the previous night's show, with the idea in mind that it'll spread the clips throughout the Internet and not force users to have to go to With the use of promotional time during The Daily Show to advertise, Comedy Central hopes to gain more audiences through these 60-second clips. [10]

Comedy Central uses a variety of platforms including TV, print online, and mobile to get the word out. Back in 2005, Comedy Central was promoting a new show 'Stella,' through the uses of "influencer" mailings from Cornerstone Marketing (New York), street teams, at clubs and bars, and among other places. Comedy Central also gave Verizon Wireless members preview clips of the show and ran text-based tune-in alerts for Sprint PCS users. Glenn Ginsburg, formal VP of interactive ad sales, said, "Working cross-platform maximizes the reach for an audience, especially with Stella. Hopefully, this will generate a lot of interest." [11]


Comedy Central, known as the only all-comedy network, is the #1 provider of surprising, laugh-out-loud programming. Comedy Central "connects with a young adult audience thirsting for fearless, outrageous originals with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, South Park, The Colbert Report....along with stand-up specials and can't-miss events like the annual Comedy Central Roast." [12] Comedy Central's original programs help with the reinventing of classic genres such as news, animation, and comedy variety.  Along with Comedy Central's airing of their blockbuster Roasts and annual Last Laugh, the network also offers original specials and stunt programming that viewers won’t find anywhere else.

Comedy Central uses paid search to build brand association around its prize program assets. It buys Google ads for searches for shows such as South Park. Comedy Central is paying for ‘association.’ Besides trying to gain viewers of the show, they are trying to establish loyalty around the web-based services that relate to the shows. Claudia Setini-Samuels, head of branding and online "It’s unusual for a channel to do this but it makes sense. We’re tracking what’s being searched for based around comedy and that will have a direct influence on our content – the site must be based on what people are looking for right now."


In 2007, Comedy Central began a partnership with American Greetings to prove a new line of greeting cards starring the characters of South Park.  This deal also allowed for future Comedy Central show based cards.  American Greetings' licensing chief, Michael Brown said, "Comedy Central is a destination for laughs for millions of people every day, and we're proud to be bringing the humor from some of the network's most recognizable shows to life in a new way."  An American Greetings research project had spent 6 months looking at the differences between men and women on what is funny with the Comedy Central cards are being created with men in mind. [13]

Comedy Central has partnered with live entertainment firms such as Live Nation. The partnership includes the launch of "Comedy Central's House of Comedy Live from House of Blues," in House of Blues venues nationwide. Live Nation has said the cooperations have drawn more than 1 million fans to Comedy Central-branded tours. And Senior VP of Comedy Central Live Entertainment, Mitch Fried, said "With Live Nation and its House of Blues venues, we have found the perfect companions to expand our thriving touring business and grow the Comedy Central brand outwards and off channel." As a part of the deal, Comedy Central will be integrated throughout the venues and retail shops of the House of Blues, including that of on and off stage, and also in show marketing. Comedy Central, likewise, will give advertisers the opportunity to become official sponsors of the comedic series. [14]

Hoping to bring the laughter overseas to USA's military troops, Comedy Central has partnered with the USO (United Service Organizations) to create "PVT Jokes."  Comedy kits, including Comedy Central DVD titles, will be reached out to more than 200 forward operating bases and U.S. military hospitals both at home and overseas.  This is the second partnership between Comedy Central and USO which had formally brought "The Colbert Report" to Iraq on a USO tour (2009: "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando). [15]

Comedy Central is now in partnership with Don Mischer Productions to revive the once annual “American Comedy Awards," last taken place in 2001.  It will honor and reward the year's best in film, television, digital shorts and performance.  The "American Comedy Awards" are scheduled to premiere in 2010 and will premiere simultaneously across all of MTV Networks Entertainment Group channels including the Comedy Central network, Spike TV and TV Land. 

Signature Programing and General Trends

Current Programming

The Daily Show (1996-)

premiered in the summer of 1996 and was initially hosted by Craig Kilbourn. In 1999 Jon Stewart who had previously worked at MTV news took over as the show's anchor. The Show airs Monday through Thursday at 11pm. Episodes are reaired several times during the week during daytime. Even though the show is dubbed "fake news" it has been recognized as an influential political commentary. [16] During the period of the 2008 presidential election the show averaged about 2 million viewers every night, a level the show has since then maintained. The show fares particularly well with male audiences from 18-34. [17] [18] The show is currently renewed through June 2013.[19]  The show's structure is a mixture of newscast and late night talkshow. Stewart discusses current political events and features "mock" political commentators as well as real pundits. The show also features guests outside the political arena such as actors and musicians.[20] The show has garned broad critical acclaim and has won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series every year since 2003, for a total of seven wins.[21]

The Colbert Report (2005-)

premiered in the fall of 2005. It is a spin-off from The Daily Show, where Stephen Colbert had previously contributed as a news correspondant. Colbert's on-screen persona is widely seen as a parody right-wing commentator Bill O'Reilly. Subsequently, The Colbert Report is mocking his Show "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News.[22] It airs Monday through Thursday at 11.30 pm following The Daily Show and usually retains most of its lead-in audience. Reruns are several times a day. Similar to Jon Stewart, Colbert fares particularly well with male audiences in the 18-34 demographic. Currently the show averages about 1.5 million viewers per night.[23]  The Colbert Report has been renewed through December 2012.[24]

South Park (1997-)

premiered in the summer of 1997 and is Comedy Central's longest-running and highest-rated scripted show. The show is currently airing its 14th Season and airs everyday of the week in various timeslots, only during prime time and nighttime though. So far more than 200 episodes have been produced. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the animated series is set in the fictional town of South Park. The show features various character but mostly revolves around a group of young boys. South Park pokes fun at controversial topics, mocks celebrities and is known for its profane humour. It was an instant success and drew record numbers during its first three seasons. As buzz died done, ratings have somewhat eroded but the show continues to attract an average audience of over 3 million viewers. The Show has won four Emmys for Outstanding Animated Series.[25] In 1999 a feature film was released: South Park: Longer, Bigger & Uncut, which grossed more than 80 million Dollars. [26]

Other notable Shows and Programing

Comedy Central produced several shows of commercial and cultural significance throughout the 2000s. Chapelle's Show (2003-2006) was a critical and ratings success alike but ended when the show's star Dave Chapelle exited despite being renewed for a third season. [27] Comedienne Sarah Silverman brought The Sarah Silverman Program (2007-2010) to Comedy central which enjoyed considerable success and earned her an Emmy nomination in 2009. [28] Recently Daniel Tosh has emerged as one of the networks most successful new stars. His show Tosh.O (2009-) draws up to 3 million viewers per episode. [29]

As most Cable networks do, Comedy Central rebroadcasts many of its programs throughout the week. The network also airs specials of stand-up comedians and feature films.

General Trends

Since its launch Comedy Central has established itself as a popular destination for young male audiences in the 18-34 demographic. Most of their shows rely less on concept but rather the personalities of their stars. These Stars such as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert have branched into other lucrative venues (books, high-profile appearences on other networks) and by that have helped to raise Comedy Centrals profile. Comedy Central has catered to the internet affinity of its young male audience by offering a lot of content such as clips and even full episodes on their website before this practice was as common as it now is.[30]

Textual Analysis

The Daily Show (1996-Present)

The Daily Show is a late-night program that is produced by and aired on the Comedy Central cable network.  The Daily Show airs Mondays through Thursdays at 11pm, with a half-hour format combining the elements of late-night talk shows and traditional newscast. The show is filmed live-to-tape in front of a live audience. The show begins with host/anchor Jon Stewart commenting on current political developments. He usually often talks to faux commentators and pundits. Following the news portion, he usually welcomes guests, some of which are actual journalists, analysts or politicians (most recently President Obama) but also entertainers and celebrities. The program frequently uses actual clips and news footage and satirically comments on or mocks them.

The Daily Show is commonly referred to as "fake news," but has also been noted for having considerable political and informative value.  Because it is so easy for viewers to ignore what's going on with the news/politics, The Daily Show is able to provide an alternate take on the news, appealing to those simply looking for entertainment programming.  Unlike news sources, The Daily Show does not have to worry about objectivity, taking journalistic approaches, or even the practice of accuracy.  Male viewers between 18 and 34 make up the largest chunk of viewers, correlating with what Comedy Centrals aims for as at target audience. During the last week of October 2010, The Daily Show for the first time finished as the highest-rated late-night program in the key demographic 18-49, averaging 1.3 million viewers in this demo. This record might in large parts be attributed to President Obama's appearance and the media attention surrounding Jon Stewart's "Ralley to Restore Sanity".[31].

analyze how its form and content fit with the industrial strategies and contexts you discovered in the first report.

How does the program and its cultural meanings fit within the channel's brand?

How might the production history of the show connect with its ownership structure?


The Daily Show was previously hosted by Craig Kilborn. When Jon Stewart took over,  Lizz

"Well, the format is almost identical – the way it’s set up. And I’m glad Jon [Stewart] took it in the direction he did, and I knew that he would. Basically, what was great is, when we first launched, we would always have constant philosophical debates about how political the show should be. The network wanted it to be a little more of a hybrid of entertainment and politics, and I always thought politics was the way to go, because if you’re going to satirize, it’s nice to have big, powerful people to satirize. But they thought, “People don’t care about politics. They don’t want to hear that much about it.” And I was like, “I disagree.” So we found a balance there. And then when Jon came in, I think he was more along the lines of the philosophy that I had. He wanted to take it to its full, upright and locked position, if you will, following politics. And as we know, he’s made this amazing creation." [32]

How does the program's scheduling connect with the channel's larger strategies?

In 2005, Comedy Central launched The Colbert Report, a spin-off show from The Daily Show.  The addition of The Colbert Report to the cable's lineup is an attempt by Comedy Central to update and redo its late-night schedule hoping to increase its viewership in the youth. 

Similarities/differences & how the shows play off each other  

AsThe Daily Show is competing with other late night shows on the networks, the airing of The Colbert Report right after The Daily Show would allow Comedy Central to keep the viewership during the 11-midnight block. 

South Park (1996-Present)

analyze how its form and content fit with the industrial strategies and contexts you discovered in the first report.
How does it construct its target audience?
How does the program and its cultural meanings fit within the channel's brand?
How might the production history of the show connect with its ownership structure?
How does the program's scheduling connect with the channel's larger strategies?

the goal is to provide clear and specific insights into how the meanings offered by these programs are connected to the industrial systems that produce and distribute them

Notes: (NY Times Article) [33]


Already, the shows after South Park, including a nightly takeoff on the news called The Daily Show, have seen huge jumps in their ratings when South Park leads into them. We had already been ticking up, said Doug Herzog, the channel's president. This show is kind of like adding jet fuel.

The buzz surrounding South Park is still heaviest on college campuses and in other places where young viewers congregate. Mr. Cole said the median age of South Park viewers was 25.

Comedy Central is also counting on South Park to extend the distribution of the channel, which now reaches 46 million homes. I think this can help drive us to the 60 million mark, Mr. Herzog said.

That sort of growth would make Comedy Central a far more valuable asset to its owners, Viacom and Time Warner Inc. In the meantime, they can count the profits from what is shaping up as the next big merchandising bonanza related to a TV show.


  1. CBS News. "Viacom Buys All of Comedy Central" April 22, 2003.
  3. Broadcasting and Cable. "Ganeless Named Comedy Central President." Web. 05 Sept 2007.
  5. Multi Channel News. "Comedy Central Launches HDTV Network" 13 Jan 2009. Web.
  6. C21 Media. "Comedy Central Heads to Israel" 29 Jul 2010. Web.
  7. "Comedy Central: Profile Data" Cable Television Advertising Bureau. Web. 06 Oct 2010.
  8. "Comedy Central: Profile Data" Cable Television Advertising Bureau. Web. 05 Oct 2010.
  9. "South Park." Copyright Promotions Licensing Group. Web. 06 Oct 2010.
  10. Morrisey, Brian. "Comedy Central Crafts 'Daily Show' Highlights Reel." 04 Nov 2009. Web. 05 Oct 2010.
  11. "Comedy Central Stellabration." BrandWeek. 13 Jun 2005. Web.
  12. "Comedy Central: Profile Data" Cable Television Advertising Bureau. Web. 06 Oct 2010.
  13. "Comedy Central Hits Greeting Cards." USA Today. 13 Sep 2007. Web. 05 Oct 2010.
  14. Szalai, Georg. "Comedy Central, Live Nation Expand Deal." Hollywood Reporter. 18 Feb 2010. Web.
  15. "COMEDY CENTRAL® Partners With The USO For New Military Outreach Program." Comedy Central. 01 Sep 2009. Web. 07 Oct 2010.
  16. Baym, Geoffrey. "The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the reinvention of Political Journalism."
  17. Starr, Michael. New York Post. 25 Sep 2008. Web.
  18. Gorman, Bill. TV By The Numbers. 8 Sep 2010. Web.
  19. United Press International, Inc. April 2010. Web.
  20. "Official Homepage." The Daily Show.
  21. Primetime Emmys Official Website. Web. 7 Oct 2010.
  22. Coletta, Lisa. "Political Satire and Postmodern Irony in the Age of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart" in: The Journal of Popular Culture. Oct 2009.
  23. Gorman, Bill. "Comedy Central Records Hottest Summer Ratings in History." TV By The Numbers. Sep 2010. Web.
  24. "Daily Show, Colbert Get Renewed." United Press International, Inc. 20 Apr 2010. Web.
  25. Primetime Emmys Official Website. Web.
  26. "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut." Web.
  27. Associated Press. Aug 2005. Web.
  28. Sarah Silverman Program on Comedy Central Offical Site. Web.
  29. Gorman, Bill. Sep 2010. Web.
  30. Official Website. Web.
  31. Sean O'Neal, A.V. Club, November 4th, 2010:fckLR,47237/