Does Comedy Travel?

In advertisign and in entertainment, it is very difficult to create humor that travels. Slapstick comedy generally does better than cerebral comedy, but you’re likely to have better luck taking a cops and robbers film global than a romantic comedy.

According to the WSJ (sub required), Comedy Central is going global, but with a distinctly local touch. Says the article, “In January, Viacom began airing a German version of its Comedy Central network, in a strategy the company hopes will strengthen its toehold in one of the world’s biggest media markets. It’s the second international foray for Comedy Central after Poland, which debuted with a small digital channel in October.”

Here’s a screen shot of the German site:
Comedy Central Germany

Comedy Central is mixing dubbed American comedies with locally produced shows. It’s focusing on large markets only and it’s open to simply licensing the name to local partners.

Meanwhile, MTV, which offers 64 international MTV channels, is pulling out of on some of its countries. For all its international coverage, the WSJ says the network is barely covering costs.

Viacom brings in only about 10% of its revenues from abroad, well behind the curve as global companies go.

Which is probably why Sumner Redstone is comfortable taking the risk. Viacam can’t really afford not to expand its brands globally. Says the article, “Mr. Redstone defends Viacom’s strategy on comedy, saying he faced similar doubts 20 years ago about MTV, which critics derided as a fad. ‘In every place in the world, people are interested in comedy, just like with music and kids” programming, he says.”

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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