Comedy Central’s Levitt tells media outlets to be more than newspapers


Comedy Central is statistically the go-to source for comedy. But Executive Vice President for Marketing Walter Levitt said the company wants to be much more than just a television network.

“We are in every digital platform you can imagine,” Levitt said. “We’re in the DVD business, the TV business, and even send comics around to tour.”

This is the same type of mindset that newspapers need to have, Levitt said at the 82nd INMA World Congress.

Just like Comedy Central doesn’t want to be only a television network, media outlets can’t just be newspapers. They need to venture into the digital realms, he said.

Comedy Central is well ahead of its competitors as far as what peoples’ favorite news channel is, with 51% of people giving their vote to it compared to just 17% for Adult Swim — the next closest competitor. 

So Comedy Central has the attention of its fans, but now the brand needs to keep them. Levitt kept with a familiar theme of World Congress sessions, saying news organisations need to understand their audience and cater to them.

“They build it,” he said. “We have to follow them.”

Comedy Central, for example, is a brand geared toward younger people, Levitt said. Its focus is on 18- to 30- year old males in Generation Y — a generation that consists of 75 million people. It’s also one that Levitt said has essentially been born with a mobile device in its hand.

Comedy Central discovered young males have a passion for comedy — more than their favourite sports teams, brands, and even religion, he said.

Levitt mentioned specifically Tosh.0, which was launched as a media brand and not a television show. It focused on being Internet-based with television as its main platform to reach viewers and then moving to social media to interact with fans.

“You cannot be a media brand in 2012 and not be in the social media space,” Levitt said.

Comedy Central took an extra step to ensure it reached out to its social media following. It used advertising aside from just putting an ad on a Web page, asking Capital One to sponsor an app, which they said they would release after they received two million “likes" on their Facebook page. They then released the app for free, with Capital One’s logo on it.

Levitt used the acronym “NBDB,” meaning “never been done before,” when talking about the Facebook campaign to get two million followers. The idea of encouraging fans to “like” a page on Facebook isn’t exactly new, but the giving away of a free app as a reward was.

Those are the types of things that separate one organisation from the next, Levitt said.

“If you are Blockbuster, who is your Netflix?” he asked. “Don’t forget and let them get ahead of you.”

He later added, “It’s not about the platform. It’s about the service we provide for our audience.”

Levitt continued to hit home the idea that Comedy Central is moving past the TV screen and onto the Internet and social media environments. 

He posed one final question to the audience to ponder: “Are you still a newspaper?”


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