Comedy Central is the United States’ most popular comedy network and home to a huge variety of stand-up acts, sketch comedy and animation. The channel is owned by Time Warner Entertainment Company, a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., and Viacom International, a company that is a 50-50 joint venture between Time Warner and Viacom.
In its early years, Comedy Central focused on attracting subscribers with original programming that made the channel unique and different from other cable networks. The goal of the company’s officers and executives was to make a niche in the market by producing a mix of low-budget original comedy and animated series, as well as reruns of sitcoms and sketches that were already on other channels.
The most successful program to debut on the network was South Park, which premiered in 1997 and was a hit from the very first episode. The show’s crude animated comedy and satirical humor brought a new audience to the network, even when it was not available in most areas of the country.
Other shows that quickly gained a large following included Reno 911!, Workaholics, Broad City, and Chappelle’s Show. Some of these were renewed for multiple seasons, while others were cancelled.
During the late 1990s, the company was losing advertisers, but it was still making money. In 1991, advertising revenues accounted for 45 percent of its total revenue. This increased to almost half of all the company’s profits in 1994, when the network ranked fourth among television channels.
As a result of this, the company hired its first head of advertising sales, Larry Divney. Divney was an alumnus of Ted Turner’s advertising sales department at CNN, and had a close friendship with the founder of the company.
He started a new management team at the new company and brought in other people who had built their careers at HBO and MTV. He hoped that this would give the channel a fresh start, as many of his employees began their careers at other media companies and were looking for an opportunity to build a new career.
Another notable change at the company was the hiring of Doug Herzog as president and chief executive officer. Herzog had worked as a programmer at MTV and was credited with changing the format of that network.
Herzog aimed to bring in a new generation of comedians and improve the quality of their work. He also hoped to add more scripted live-action comedy to the network. This was reflected in the decision to cancel Drunk History and Tosh.0, which were largely replaced by reruns of South Park.
The company also redirected its budgets to its original comedy programs. It re-released its own stand-up specials, and it created a new weekly sketch comedy show called The Roast, which was similar to the traditional “New York Friars’ Club” roasts.
Comedy Central also offers its own radio service, which airs uncensored shows from the network’s vast library of comedy material. Moreover, it offers its own comedy podcasts and comedy specials. This allows customers to listen to comedy on a variety of devices, such as streaming players and smart TVs.