Skip to main content

Comedy Central Analysis - March 2011


* Bold denotes programming change


Comedy Central is adept at mixing original series with acquistions such as ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and SCRUBS to deliver consistent young adult audiences. Their strategy of using established lead-ins such as SOUTH PARK to introduce new hits such as TOSH.0 has paid off: top-rated TOSH.0 is now being used in a similar fashion to lead in to new series ONION SPORTSDOME in 2011.

With over 200 episodes still in rotation, SOUTH PARK, the traditional go-to series to fill problem time periods, has been joined by FUTURAMA and TOSH.0 in that role. Friday nights are devoted to Stand-Up specials, with movies and more Stand-Up  dominating the rest of the Weekend.

Comedy Central's schedule stands out in nonfiction cable (excluding news/sports networks) because two of its highest-profile franchises, THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART and THE COLBERT REPORT, are weekday live-to-tape productions. Comedy Central's programs are arranged on a grid rare for its dependably predictable pattern -- day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, even year-to-year. These folks surely have some of the strongest appointment viewing numbers in the business. Their audience is also unusually, enviably young - hovering, on average, around thirty-one years old. That it also skews male should make you imagine the sound of money being printed.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison March 2011 vs. March 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

March built upon February's expansion of #1 series TOSH.0 to Fridays, in addition to regular airings on Tuesday and Wednesday.

HH ratings and key demos showed slight growth over last month, as well as  from March 2010.

On Mondays in March, an early-Prime movie led into the returning IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, which had replaced reliable standby SOUTH PARK  from 9-11pm. While the 9pm episode of SUNNY drops slightly from its Movie lead-in, the two-hour block grows steadily through the end of the night. Monday was down by modest double-digit percentages for Women demos in February.

Tuesdays saw new offering ONION SPORTSDOME, introduced in January, moved to 8pm from 1030, where its Tosh.0 lead-in helped position it as the third-highest rated series in February. Now at 8pm, ONION SPORTSDOME fell to the lowest-rated of all regularly-scheduled series in March.  Despite this, Tuesday was the strongest night versus last March, thanks to new episodes of TOSH.0, as well as the premiere of the COMEDY CENTRAL ROAST OF DONALD TRUMP. Demos were up in the 50-60% range over last month.

Wednesday's demos were down by 1/3 from last year and last month. Comedy Central has been double-running the 35 some-odd episodes of CHAPPELLE'S SHOW from 8-9pm steadily for over two years, followed by 2 hours of SOUTH PARK. The two series lost 25% and 35%, respectively, of M18-49 ratings from March 2010, indicating a potential need to freshen Wednesday's scheduling strategy. With new episodes of SOUTH PARK debuting in April, we'll keep an eye on whether the series returns to its former prominence.

Thursdays remain fully animated with a 90:00 block of FUTURAMA followed by a 90:00 block of the ubiquitous SOUTH PARK. The three-hour block generally builds early to a consistent 930-11pm peak. The night as a whole was down modestly from February.

TOSH.0 has taken over the first hour of Friday's Stand-Up heavy night, providing a stronger and younger-skewing lead-in. The night as a whole was up significantly for younger demos, and up modestly compared with last month.

Weekend highlights included a Daniel Tosh Stand-up premiere, as well two top-rated  Jeff Dunham special repeats. A returning special  from Katt Williams and a debut from Lisa Lampanelli also scored well above average.


Comedy ranks among the top 10 cablers for the 18-34 demographic, and mainly with a mix of their original series, stand-up and sketch, not off-net acquisitions like most of the other cable networks.

Originals are sketch, stand-up, reality, and animation.

Comedy over the past year or so has actively been buying movie packages from many of the big studio distributors and it doesn't look like they are slowing down anytime soon.


Comedy's strategy of having young male demographics as their primary audience has helped them for potential growth. Comedy is on a roll and focusing on the future by securing top talent and development deals. Projects in development run the gamut from short-form and sketch/variety to scripted narrative and animation starring a cross-section of top comedic talent. Sketch comedies and animation are on tap for Comedy as part of its new slate of original pilots.

Comedy Central knows what's funny. One of the many growing networks, they are one of the most successful for on-air, online and on-the-go mobile technology.According to network honcho Michele Ganeless: " Our strategy is to provide our audience with the tools they need to become evangelists for the shows and talent they love. If we give them the right tools and materials, social media allows them to spread the word on their own, with a voice of authenticity that can only come from the fans."

They give their viewers access to the cutting-edge original programming, stand-up and sketch comedy, plus offbeat comedy TV series and movies. Their strategy of attracting the young male demographic continues to grow month to month whether their strategy be one off originals or stunt/holiday programming.

Comedy continues to acquire a variety of original stand-up comedy programs and specials. There are three outlets currently for talent that the network features stand-up shows: COMEDY CENTRAL PRESENTS, LIVE AT GOTHAM, as well as one-hour specials filmed exclusively for COMEDY CENTRAL.

Comedy, which like TBS, keeps its entire focus on the Comedy genre, has new seasons of several original series in production for 2010-11, including Futurama, South Park and Tosh.0  Cable networks in record numbers are launching their own comedies out of sheer necessity because there are so few comedies being scheduled by the broadcast networks. Since the late 1990s, reality shows have steadily displaced comedies on the broadcast side, and many broadcast comedy writers have shifted to cable.