Comedy Central: How They Try (And Fail) To Reach Millennials


We all know that how we watch content has
changed dramatically over the last decade, and TV networks know this too. But no one has hit on a formula for exactly
how to present TV content to a millennial audience, where viewers are using a wide variety
of platforms. Today, we’re going to look at Comedy Central,
and see how they have been trying to target millenials in a big way, by attempting to
balance tv and the growing power of social media. The reality is that comedy is the only genres
that allows this kind of flexibility, other than the news. Dramas, romance, science fiction; it’s difficult
to present any of these in small pieces because the plots are too complex or the mood and
tone will be disrupted if you cut them up too small. And although comedy can easily have an overarching
storyline, it’s also easy to pull out certain parts and present them without context, to
a new audience. For Comedy Central, the most obvious place
to start is The Daily Show. As soon as Jon Stewart retired, the network
knew that a like for like replacement was unlikely to work, especially as Stephen Colbert
and John Oliver were tied in to their own shows, since they were the only two who had
proven they could fill the part. The relaunch with Trevor Noah wasn’t just
a new presenter, there was a clear push for a younger audience, and for more engagement
on social media. It’s likely they saw how well people had
reacted to John Oliver’s Last Week tonight on YouTube, which was wrapping up it’s 2nd
season by the time Trevor Noah debuted as host in September 2015. And quickly there was unique content produced
for YouTube, just like with Last Week Tonight, and Noah recorded a number of outro shots,
asking people to subscribe. In the
first year of Trevor Noah’s run, there was a lot of noise about how he had lost a lot
of Stewarts ratings. But the focus was always on a young audience. With Stewart, the average audience age was
around 50, but advertisers want millennials, and that’s what Noah gave them. He’s overtaken “The Tonight Show Starring
Jimmy Fallon” as the top late-night talk show among people under 25, and The Daily
Show is the top late-night talk show with men under 35. In 2017, the Daily Show audience grew 6% in
the 18-49 category, leading to Noah getting a new contract. Comedy Central’s primetime ratings are down
6% overall though, so it’s no surprise they are making sure they keep Noah
on board. Comedy Central’s parent, Viacom, also doesn’t
see a big future for them on the major streaming services. In 2017, their agreement with Hulu was left
to expire and although they have struck ongoing exclusive agreements for a handful of shows,
like Broad City, South Park and Key & Peele, most Comedy Central content is now gone from
the platform. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said that video on demand
is not going to be a significant part of their affiliate revenue, going forward. Some of their other format experiments have
also failed. The critical hit “Review” used clever
structuring to mean it could be presented as a regular 30 minute show on television,
but it could easily be cut up and presented as clips online. Old show Key and Peele was gold on social
media, because you can just jump right in to the sketches. They got 195 million views on youtube, as
well as 50 million on Facebook, but only 2 million from TV. But, despite being well reviewed, Review only
lasted 2 seasons. Another attempt to diversify came with their
own channel on Snapchat Discover. They were one of the first 11 media companies
to sign up for the launch and that number has since grown to over 70. But despite being one of the most popular
partners, second only to Buzzfeed, Comedy Central pulled the plug. Although they may continue to make new shows
specifically designed for the platform, like Quickie with Nikki and animation The Lounge,
it’s rumoured that the extra work of converting their bigger properties, like The Daily Show
and Key & Peele, was proving unpopular within the company. At the end of the day, that’s the real problem
they are facing; do you make a show to fit each different platform, or do you try to
adapt what you have into all these different forms? No one really knows the answer yet, least
of all Comedy Central. Want to lean more about business theory and
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