Walter Levitt on Marketing More Than a TV Network

by Walter Levitt, Comedy Central

Kyle, Kenny and Stan from Comedy Central's 'South Park'

For a media marketer, there’s nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to lead a brand that is loved and admired by its fans.  It also helps if you’re a big fan yourself.

Last year at this time, I was in the final stages of coordinating my move to New York City to join Comedy Central. For a Canadian who had spent his entire career in the media business back home, the chance to lead the marketing of one of the world’s coolest and most successful media brands was both exciting and scary. Or said more simply: I didn’t want to screw up twenty years of success.


A year later, I have no regrets. As I have told countless friends and colleagues who ask: yes, it is as much fun as you would expect.  Funny people tend to be smart people, so working at a place filled with bright people who like to make you laugh…well, it can’t be beat. (It also happens to be a workplace filled with nice people – that’s good, too.)

But the marketing opportunity has also turned out to be even more interesting than I had imagined. That’s because it didn’t take long to uncover one of the most interesting insights about Comedy Central: it’s not really a TV network.

Well, sure, Comedy Central is a TV network. But it’s much, much more. It’s an expansive digital business that delivers comedy content on almost every platform imaginable – from VOD to Hulu to iPads. Our content is available via DVDs, CDs and download-to-own. We’re a live touring comedy company. And Comedy Central is also a growing player in consumer products (Indecision 2012 is our latest product line).

Of course, the TV business is our biggest revenue driver today. And the research is clear: when you ask consumers about their favorite brand for comedy content on TV, Comedy Central is at the front of the pack…by a huge margin.

But with a core target of young guys who are early adopters of anything that starts with an “i”, it seems clear that our digital business is poised for tremendous continued growth.  And while it’s a mug’s game to predict consumer habits, it wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest that at some point as many people will come to Comedy Central in the digital space as do in the linear TV space.

So a key focus over the last year has been evolving how we think about ourselves. We are beyond seeing digital as a “brand extension” of the TV network; we now talk about Comedy Central as a comedy brand that meets the needs of young guys wherever they are looking to laugh. That means on the TV channel, of course. But it also means online, on their mobile devices, on Netflix, on connected TVs – and anywhere else they are going for comedy.

Part of that renewed focus is ensuring we are connecting with our “fans” (they are much more than just “viewers”) wherever they are. Gone are the days of spending entire launch budgets plastering cities with outdoor ads and radio commercials. We do still use traditional media where it’s appropriate, but as you would expect, much of our marketing effort is now focused in the digital space. We connect with Comedy Central fans through our own digital offerings – including, the #1 humor website, and our millions of social media followers.  We also partner with other digital media companies to ensure our messages are reaching comedy fans wherever they are seeking-out funny content.

So one year later, I see Comedy Central in a very different light. Turns out I didn’t just come to work for the biggest comedy TV network – I came to work for the #1 brand in comedy. Pretty cool, eh?

Walter Levitt is Executive Vice President of Marketing for Comedy Central. 

Follow Walter on Twitter @MediaMktgGuy or catch him tomorrow at the MediaPost Outfront Conference in New York City for a panel discussion entitled, “Network Marketing  Now: Tradtional Methods Decline, Social Media Grows, Clutter A Constant.”

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  1. Hey Walter,

    Sounds like you’re moving Comedy Central in a great direction and having a blast doing it. What more could anyone want from their career? ‘No regrets’ indeed. Congrats!


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