Exec VP Hilary Exits Comedy Central

In the first big executive move since Doug Herzog was named president of Comedy Central in March, longtime network executive vice president and general manager Bill Hilary will leave the network at the end of the summer to pursue other interests.

Hilary, who joined the network in 2000 and oversees all of Comedy Central’s programming, marketing and online functions, said he’s yielding the network’s creative direction to Herzog.

Hilary leaves with no ill feelings. “You can’t have two creative heads in the company,” he said. “We get along incredibly well and this is very amicable. It’s not at all hostile.”

During Hilary’s term, the network developed several of its current hits, including Chappelle’s Show, Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn, Crank Yankers and Reno 911!, as well as The Graham Norton Show and Drawn Together that are set to bow later this year.

Hilary also oversaw the network’s first original movie, Porn and Chicken, in 1992.

Comedy enjoyed a record first quarter in 2004, as the average primetime rating rose 14%, to a 0.8, year to year. The primetime rating was up 33% in May compared with a year ago.

“I really feel that we’ve done a great job; we’ve had a load of hits and I believe the channel has never been stronger,” Hilary said. “At the end of the day, this is the right time to look for another challenge and other options.”

The Belfast, Ireland, native, who spent some 19 years in the U.K. television industry, including a stint at the British Broadcasting Corp., said he wants to remain in the U.S. and is talking to Comedy Central parent Viacom Inc. about “other options” within the company but would not provide specific details.

While Hilary will depart, sources within the channel said current network senior vice president of original programming and head of development Lauren Corrao will remain, although Comedy Central executives would not officially comment.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.