Comedy Central readies new division

Mitch Fried to head live entertainment sector

Comedy Central has announced the formation of a new live entertainment division to be headed by longtime network denizen Mitch Fried.

Biz unit, dubbed Comedy Central Live Entertainment, will seek to leverage the channel’s on-air promotional power to drive ticket sales and ancillary revenue for comedy tours of featured comedians, while conversely conducting promotion at these live events to spark such associated elements as on-air stand-up specials, and DVD and merchandise sales.

“What we’re doing is really pooling all of our resources and making ourselves a one-stop shop for comedians,” said Comedy Central prexy Michele Ganeless. “We’re making it easier for talent to do everything under one roof. We can market everything under one umbrella so that each piece builds on the other.”

Comedian Stephen Lynch will christen the new Comedy Central division at the beginning of next year, embarking on a monthlong U.S. tour before heading to Europe to play select locales. In the run-up to this tour, Fried said Comedy Central will feature Lynch on its “Friday Night Stand-up” skein, along with promotional interstitials that highlight the comic’s upcoming tour.

Once the tour is launched, Comedy Central will craft a stand-up special and DVD featuring the comedian, promoting both during the live shows.

“If we do things correctly, it all supports each other, which is a wonderful thing,” said Fried, noting that the European leg of Lynch’s tour will coincide with the Euro launch of Comedy Central in a number of territories.

The duties are certainly not new to Fried, who will now operate under the title of senior VP, Comedy Central Live Entertainment. Since 2002, he’s headed a division called Comedy Central Live!, which has organized tours for comics, including Mike Birbiglia, Greg Giraldo and Christian Finnegan, that have netted more than $60 million in box office receipts over the years.

The restructuring essentially formalizes an evolving strategy of letting Fried’s group negotiate pacts with comics that span a range of platforms. “Now, we’re literally going out and packaging these arrangements as all-inclusive deals,” he said.