Even before Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert reupped with Comedy Central, the network was far less worried about losing Stewart to broadcast than it was a few years ago.
On the heels of TBS signing Conan O’Brien last week, basic cable continues to be the sweet spot for male-skewing political comedy — offered with a heavy dose of satire. Comedy bits on latenight entities on the broadcast nets have to reach a much broader audience. Some believe that O’Brien’s tenure at the “The Tonight Show” was short-lived because what worked at 12:30 a.m. for a much more niche aud didn’t succeed an hour earlier in front of a much more diverse viewing public.
In the 18-34 male demo, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” rank No. 1 and No. 2 from 11 p.m. to midnight, respectively, and outdistance both Jay Leno and David Letterman. The median age for “Daily Show” is 40 while Colbert’s is 37, the youngest of any latenight talker with the exception of “The George Lopez Show.”
“The model has changed so much that he’s much more relevant where he is now,” said Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless. “We want Jon and Stephen to continue here as long as possible and would love to extend their contracts even further. What they do is so unique and specialized, and they get creative freedom here. I think they’re happy to do what they do on Comedy Central.”
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. According to Forbes magazine, Stewart earned $14 million last year. Although “The Daily Show” has been on the air since 1996, Stewart has sat in the anchor desk since 1999.
Stewart’s new deal runs through June 2013, while Colbert is signed until the end of 2012. Colbert actually has been working with a new contract for several months since his old pact expired at the end of 2009, but the network wanted to make simultaneous announcements about their top talent staying put. Stewart’s contract was set to expire at the end of this year. Letterman’s deal at CBS expires in 2012.
Ganeless said she would’ve been happy keeping the pair in-house for beyond 2013, but, “No one knows what the world will look like in 2015, so the deals we have are appropriate for the moment.”
Both Stewart and Colbert will now be around for the 2012 presidential election, which provides plenty of comedic fodder. Both “Daily Show” and”Colbert Report” poke fun at both political parties and enjoy their highest ratings during election years.
“To have them there through the midterm and presidential elections are key for us,” Ganeless said.
The deal doesn’t include any new development projects with Stewart’s shingle, Busboy Prods, which produces “The Colbert Report” and “Important Things With Demetri Martin,” which is awaiting a decision about a third-season renewal.