Comedy Central Is Getting the Brands Back Together for Paramount+

Photo: Left: Getty Images, Center: Paramount+, Right: Getty Images

Amy Schumer is bringing back her Emmy and Peabody Award–winning Comedy Central sketch series Inside Amy Schumer — but not for cable. Instead, the revival is headed to Paramount+, where it will be one of the centerpieces of a Comedy Central–branded hub on the new streaming platform. New chapters of well-known Comedy Central titles such as Workaholics, Reno 911! and The Daily Show, along with a new Beavis and Butt-Head movie, are also headed to the service, according to MTV Entertainment Group president Chris McCarthy. The exec unveiled plans for the latest iteration of the 30-year-old cable network Wednesday during a ViacomCBS investors conference outlining the company’s overall streaming strategy.

In an interview earlier this week, McCarthy told Vulture the Comedy Central hub “will define comedy” on Paramount+. “It will serve as an anchor for the audience, [telling them] that this is the home for all the comedy content within the service, both iconic franchises and brand-new stuff,” he said. This doesn’t mean everything comedy on the new streamer will hail from Comedy Central: Paramount+ will also house half-hours from the libraries of CBS (I Love Lucy), Paramount TV (Frasier, Taxi, The Love Boat), and even the former ViacomCBS-run network UPN (Everybody Hates Chris). But at least initially, original comedy productions on the platform will lean heavily on refreshing franchises that got their start on Comedy Central or sister network MTV. “We wanted to make the biggest projects to reignite the biggest volumes of our iconic library,” McCarthy explained. “We want to remind audiences Paramount+ is now the home for this great comedy.” Among the projects announced or confirmed today:

• The original cast of Workaholics are set to return for a movie about “what it’s like to work through the pandemic,” McCarthy said. The film is being made with an eye toward a sequel series to the original. “You may begin to see the seeding of a next generation of cast for what a new Workaholics could look like,” the exec added.

• The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah will host and produce a weekly series for the streamer tentatively dubbed … The Weekly Show. “He’ll go much deeper into a topic or an interview … in a way that the traditional linear show doesn’t allow us to do,” McCarthy said. The streamer has ordered six episodes of the new project. In addition, Paramount+ will stream episodes of The Daily Show hours after they debut on the Comedy Central cable channel.

• Reno 911!, last seen on Quibi, will return on Paramount+ for a movie event titled The Hunt for QAnon. The title gives away the story line.

As previously reported, the Comedy Central cable network is working on a weekly series revival of Beavis and Butt-Head. But first, the famed teenagers will appear in a still-untitled Paramount+ feature film, which McCarthy says is designed as a bridge between the old series and the reboot, setting up the story line for the eventual series.

• Schumer has agreed to do a series of specials under the Inside Amy Schumer banner. The initial order is for five half-hour installments, and while the project is being described as a limited series, “Who knows where things could go?” McCarthy said. “She’s one of the talents that helped define the [Comedy Central] brand.” The exec says two or three episodes of the new project will likely be released at first, with subsequent half-hours following about every six weeks or so. The Comedy Central cable network renewed Inside Amy Schumer for a fifth season back in 2016, but as Schumer’s career exploded, she and the network put off producing new episodes, at one point saying there were no plans to resume production anytime soon. In 2019, however, Schumer told the New York Times she was once again interested in returning to the sketch format.

McCarthy, who says the Paramount+ commitment represents a “brand-new deal,” has been working for months to bring back Schumer, as well as other Comedy Central vets. “We talked to all the talent that we have relationships with and said, ‘We’re doing something very special with Paramount+, and we’d love to talk about how we can help deliver something that is unique and a passion play for you, but also helps to reignite your fan base and remind them that this is now the new home [of various legacy series].’ Amy was one of the first to raise their hand and said she was really excited about creating a series of specials.”

While reboots of existing franchises doesn’t represent a groundbreaking strategy for streaming (two words: Disney Plus), doing so seems particularly important in the case of Paramount+ because in so many cases, it does not have exclusive streaming rights to the shows in its library. Indeed, in some cases, the new streamer will share shows with multiple streamers: Inside Amy Schumer is also on HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video. By green-lighting continuations or spinoffs, Comedy Central on Paramount+ can tout itself as the best place for passionate fans of a show to experience the series — and perhaps prepare for a future in which ViacomCBS decides to stop licensing its library to outside platforms. Paramount+ is executing this strategy in other areas besides comedy. There will be reboots of MTV-branded franchises on the streamer, and the platform today also confirmed that the long-rumored Frasier reunion will stream exclusively on Paramount+.

Much the same way Disney didn’t completely abandon its FX cable channel when it launched FX on Hulu, McCarthy says the linear iteration of the Comedy Central brand will continue to play a key role in the company’s strategy. “The wonderful part about streaming is you get to really go into what your passion is and binge it” on demand, he said. “Linear is a much more communal experience. So we think through those prisms. On the linear platform, we’re leaning much more into the topical space and adult animation, and we’ll be rolling out that slate closer to the end of this year.” As Vulture reported last summer, one big investment Comedy Central is making on the linear side is a new talk show from radio titan Charlamagne Tha God, which McCarthy says is still on track to debut this year.

And on the streaming side, McCarthy says to expect development to ramp up noticeably in the months and years ahead. “There’ll definitely be a ton more. This just really scratches the surface,” he said. “As we look across all of our brands and studios, both domestically and globally, there is an incredible wealth of content. This is what we’ll be starting with.” McCarthy wouldn’t talk about other shows from the past that may get resurrected for Paramount+, but during Wednesday’s presentation, among the handful of past shows he specifically name-checked as having a home on the streamer was the beloved late-’90s parody series Strangers With Candy. Might that franchise be readying a return? “We love the show, and we love Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and the entire cast, but nothing new to share today,” a rep for McCarthy said Wednesday.

Comedy Central Getting the Brand Back Together at Paramount+