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Comedy Central’s Kent Alterman On Push Into Features & Going Global With Viacom

Deadline logo Deadline 2/22/2017 Jeremy Gerard
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Twelve days after Viacom CEO Bob Bakishrestructured the company to focus on six flagship brands – Comedy Central, The Paramount Network, BET, MTV, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr – Comedy Central president Kent Alterman tells Deadline he’s thinking local while going global. Translation: finding better ways to exploit the channel’s signature shows on the international platform. Additionally, he discusses the new mandate given to the six core brands to generate movies for sibling Paramount Pictures.

“Bob is laying out a Big Picture, strategic vision for Viacom,” Alterman said in an interview in New York over breakfast Wednesday morning. “How it affects us directly is that we are one of the six flagship brands. There will be a lot of attention and energy and resources put into the six, some of which is yet to be revealed.”

What he is willing to reveal, Alterman said, is an ambitious partnership with Paramount.

“It’s not that Paramount’s been given a mandate to do comedies and just slap on a Comedy Central logo,” Alterman says. “It’s that we are going to be involved in creating what these projects will become.”

“We are going to be a vital part of the Paramount studio,” he said. “Since I’ve been here – and I personally spent 10 years in the film business – I’ve thought, ‘Why are we not doing movies?’ How we execute it remains to be seen, but just the idea that we are going to have a vital pipeline in an integral way is exciting to me.”

Alterman cited South Park‘s Matt Stone and Trey Parker, whose hit Comedy Central series was parlayed into a successful Paramount Pictures movie, as something he wants to make the norm, not the exception, with the network’s homegrown talent staying in the Viacom fold on the feature side at Paramount instead of going elsewhere, as has been the case for some of CC’s biggest talent.

“Since I’ve been here in this incarnation, we launched Amy Schumer; she went on to do Trainwreck (at Universal),” Alterman said. “Key & Peele have been doing movies at various places. Workaholics have movies in development at various places; Broad City… It’s crazy that we haven’t been doing that. So that’s one direct expression of what this new mandate means for Comedy Central.”

Pumping more money and power into the freshly minted flagship, he said, “represents a new opportunity for talent that we’re starting to work with. We can offer resources and opportunity on different platforms, from digital to linear to the big screen. It’s not that Paramount’s been given a mandate to do comedies and just slap on a Comedy Central logo. It’s that we are going to be involved in creating what these projects will become.”

Alterman said that in addition to working with the film studio, Comedy Central will look to capitalize on Bakish’s experience on the global stage as former longtime head of Viacom’s international channels to rethink the network’s global strategy and try to export some of its series.

“That’s another area, I think, where we’re going to be able to expand our collaboration,” he said. “A couple of years ago we launched Drunk History. That’s so tailor-made. Yet there’s literally no territory where that show doesn’t make sense – their local version of it. What we bring to the table in other territories — there’s a lot of technique and execution that goes into it. The show is deceptively difficult to execute and it’s crafted on such a high level, it’s not just about the format.

“I’ve always been interested in the global stage,” Alterman added, “looking at, Where does comedy travel, where does it not travel? When I was coming up in the film business, very few comedic performers translated into international. That’s changed a lot. The world has gotten smaller – contrary to how some people see it.”

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