Business Of Comedy Central

During the past four years, Viacom-owned Comedy Central has transcended beyond cable TV, launching its brand into other lucrative ventures including a record label and even tours.

In 2002, the channel branched into tour management. It has run tours for comics such as Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, Dave Attell and Drew Carey.

In some cases, the tours have fed into other Comedy Central operations, as was the case with Attell, The Wall Street Journal said. A video production of the comedian’s tour became a special that aired on the channel and was later released on DVD.

Comedy Central has also built a label that has reportedly sold more than 2 million CDs. Since 2002, Comedy Central Records has gradually increased the number of releases to about 10 a year. Apparently, the low number limits risk.

“We make money on 80 percent to 90 percent of our releases,” Jack Vaughn, head of Comedy Central’s label, told the WSJ.

Comedian Carlos Mencia initially resisted Comedy Central’s offer to release a comedy album of his work on the channel’s record label, figuring he could make more money on his own.

Mencia has since changed his mind, now saying he eventually expects to sign with the company for a stand-up album.

He’ll also be starting a tour backed by the channel, according to the paper.

The company is also exploring the growing world of digital downloading.

“A guy can tell a joke Sunday night at the comedy club,” Comedy Central President Doug Herzog told the paper, “and we can deliver it to our audience in six different ways the next day.”

Excerpts from Comedy Central shows – such as short stand-up segments from “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” – are among the most downloaded items on iTunes and the channel’s own Web site, WSJ reported.

This year, Comedy Central expects to take in about $150 million in ancillary revenue, which would top what it takes in from cable and satellite operators in subscribers fees, people familiar with the network’s operations reportedly said.