Comedy Central Analysis - May 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 introduce new series. The latest debut to benefit from a SOUTH PARK lead-in, WORKAHOLICS, was renewed for a second season after only four episodes.

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 May 2011 vs. May 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Fueled by new SOUTH PARK episodes, as well as the debut of hit series WORKAHOLICS, Comedy Central grew modestly year-to-year in key male demos in May 2011. Household and demo ratings were essentially flat with April. Of May's two new series which premiered in April, Wednesday's WORKAHOLICS earned a second season, while Tuesday's SPORTS SHOW WITH NORM MCDONALD was cancelled following its initial run. Overall, the network's Median Age dropped 6% from last year, mostly due to the scheduling of younger skewing series (TOSH.0,) Movies and Stand-Up specials on the weekend.

On Mondays in May an early-Prime movie led into IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA  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.

Tuesdays saw new 1030pm offering SPORTS SHOW WITH NORM MCDONALD continue to struggle to hold a significant portion of its TOSH.0 audience.  The 8pm Stand-up specials, though, combined with new and repeating TOSH.0 episodes to earn the highest annual growth among younger women for the month.  Tuesday earned the second-strongest growth overall for May, and was up slightly over the same line-up in April.

With Wednesday's debut of Season 15, SOUTH PARK actually grew slightly over May 2010, (also fueled by the premiere of a new season.)  Wednesday earned  top growth for the month due mostly to the ability of new series WORKAHOLICS to hold a consistent 2/3 of its 10pm SOUTH PARK  lead-in at 1030pm. As the highest-rated premiering series since TOSH.0, WORKAHOLICS quickly earned  a call-back for a second season, slotted for this Fall. With the 35  episodes of CHAPPELLE'S SHOW double-running from 8-9pm steadily for over two years, that series had begun to decline in recent months. In May, however CHAPPELLE'S numbers returned to May 2010 levels. Since the series always delivers M18-49 at or above the level of its HH delivery, there still might be some life left in this venerable skein.

Thursdays remain fully animated with a 60:00 block of FUTURAMA followed by a 120:00 block of the ubiquitous SOUTH PARK, which expanded to 9pm in May replacing the third run of FUTURAMA. The three-hour block generally builds early to a consistent 10-11pm peak. The night as a whole was up sharply in HH and young men from last year.

TOSH.0 has taken over the first hour of Friday's Stand-Up heavy night, providing a stronger and younger-skewing lead-in. Compared to May 2010, the night as a whole was up modestly for younger demos, but down significantly compared with last month.

Weekend highlights included repeats of Stand-Up Specials from Daniel Tosh, Jeff Dunham, Gabriel Iglesias and Dave Chappelle. A block of TOSH.0 on the third Sunday of the month took top honors for Weekend demo delivery.


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. Recent sitcoms (WORKAHOLICS)  and animation (UGLY AMERICANS) have earned immediate second season orders, which keeps fresh material with a proven track record on the schedule for all four quarters.

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 2011-12, 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.