Comedy to nightly

Cabler to launch original programs in June

NEW YORK — Comedy Central is getting original.

The laffer web will begin airing original programming five nights a week this summer. New schedule, which kicks off June 18, will feature loosely themed nights, including an “alternative” Sunday night and “Prime Stein” Thursdays (with a double dose of Ben Stein).

Under the leadership of former BBC exec Bill Hilary, who took over as general manager and exec VP in January, the network will unveil three new initiatives today at its upfront presentation for advertisers:

  • The cabler is looking to schedule more broader-based programming in primetime. Hilary said that any genre is a possibility — including sports, music, reality and scripted drama — as long as it remains true to the Comedy Central brand of humor.

    “Of course we’d love to find the new ‘South Park,’ ” Hilary added.

  • The net plans to create a national event along the lines of VH1’s “Divas” or MTV’s “Music Video Awards.” Comedy Central will continue to be the home of “The Friars Roast.” Hilary said he’d eventually like to see a special event air each quarter.

  • Latenight will become a priority for the net, which plans to introduce a three-hour comedy block on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights by January. “We like to call it ‘The Comedy Central Laboratory,’ ” said Hilary. “Some things will explode and some won’t.”

Among the new shows that will be introduced this summer are “Strip Mall,” a scripted comedy series; the comic gameshow “Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush”; and British import “League of Gentlemen.” Returning shows include “Strangers With Candy,” “South Park,” “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” “Turn Ben Stein On” and “The Daily Show.” According to Hilary, Comedy Central’s programming budget has increased 400% since 1998.

The net will have a new on-air look by the end of August “to give us a much stronger brand,” said Hilary. “It is energetic, slightly aggressive and very modern.”

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