Comedy Central last week resigned arguably its biggest attraction, comedian Dave Chappelle, to a two-year agreement that will keep his hit series on the network through 2006.
The deal calls for 26 more episodes of Chappelle’s Show spread over two seasons, according to the network. Chappelle will continue as star, writer and executive producer, along with Neal Brennan returning as writer and executive producer. Chappelle and Brennan co-created the show.
As part of the deal, Comedy Central will air a musical special each season featuring clips of artists that appear on the show, according to network senior vice president of original programming and head of development Lauren Corrao.
The agreement also calls for Chappelle to develop new programming ideas for Comedy Central, although it’s unclear whether that extends to potential scripted series.
“We’ve established an ongoing relationship with Dave and as things crop up we’ll work with him,” Corrao said. “He’s in the family now.”
The deal secures one of Comedy Central’s biggest ratings draws. During its second season, the series averaged a 2.2 household rating and some 3.1 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen Media Research. It was cable’s leading show among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers in its 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot, and it topped all of television with males 18 to 34 in that period.
“Obviously we had to have it … the show’s been phenomenal for us,” Corrao said. “On the creative level its provocative and edgy — all the things we stand for as a network — and it had a huge impact on our ratings and other shows on our air.”
Chappelle also will receive a greater share of revenues from any future DVD releases from the show: the DVD release of the show’s first season has sold nearly 2 million units, generating more than $40 million.
Corrao would not reveal deal terms, but Chappelle reportedly will receive an eight-figure salary.
Comedy Central would not confirm reports that FX, among other networks, attempted to lure Chappelle away from the network.
Corrao said Chapelle’s busy schedule and other commitments kept the network from reaching a pact earlier.