A new report says Comedy Central is in the midst of both a business-model crisis and a creative renaissance.
The report in The New York Times Magazine focuses on the upcoming handoff of the cable channel’s late-night staple “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart to Trevor Noah, scheduled to take place in September. The report notes that Kent Alterman, president of content and original programming for Comedy Central, helped pick Noah for the high-stakes job.
Alterman, the piece reports, “has presided over a creative boom time for the channel, grooming young, offbeat stars whose shows manage to appeal to the network’s core demographic — men 18 to 34 — while aiming past it. The network’s current roster includes longstanding franchises (‘The Daily Show,’ ‘South Park’); new critical favorites (‘Key & Peele,’ ‘Broad City,’ ‘Inside Amy Schumer,’ ‘The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore’); demographic-courting hits (‘Tosh.0,’ ‘Workaholics’); and comedy-geek darlings (‘Nathan for You,’ ‘Review’).”
But the fate of “The Daily Show” is a critical piece of the channel’s big picture, the report notes, and the decision to hire Noah came only after the network received the expected rejections from bigger stars such as Amy Poehler.
“The network, owned by the media conglomerate Viacom, is trying to adapt to trends that have changed the television business irrevocably since Stewart began hosting ‘The Daily Show’ in 1999, and the program sits at the center of thorny questions about how best to face the future,” the story reports. “Contemporary news cycles can seem to comprise nanoseconds and to unfold as much on social media as anywhere else. And viewers — especially the younger ones Comedy Central wants in its cross hairs — slip elusively among smartphone apps, Xbox consoles, YouTube windows, Apple TVs, bootleg streaming portals, Roku units, Hulu pages, Netflix accounts, Amazon interfaces, torrent clients and, if they even own them, cable boxes.”
While the report notes that traditional media outlets across the board face similar pressures, “Comedy Central’s quandary is almost paradoxically acute: What does a television network do when its bread-and-butter demographic — young, piracy-fluent, glued to phones — stops watching television?”
Please click on the link near the top of this story to read the full in-depth report in The New York Times Magazine.