Comedy Gets a New, More Unified Look


New York-Comedy Central last week unveiled a more contemporary look for its logo and its on- and off-air promotional materials, which consumers will see starting today (Oct. 30).

Although there's been some "tweaking" since the network debuted in spring 1991, this is Comedy's first major redesign and the first time the network will present a unified on-air and off-channel look, executives said at a press briefing at its headquarters here.

The new logo emphasizes the Comedy Central name within the globe frame. The buildings behind it were restyled to eliminate a rooftop TV-transmitter antenna, which senior vice president of marketing Cathy Tankosic described as "communicating the 1950s broadcast era" rather than the broadband present.

The redesign did spark some "passionate feelings" both pro and con, said Tankosic and senior vice president of on-air promotion and off-air creative Peter Risafi. The latter called the new look "bright, vivid, energetic."

Those executives months ago selected Imaginary Forces-a Los Angeles-based shop best known for the opening titles on movies like
The Mummy
Mission: Impossible

Wild, Wild West

and broadcast-network shows like ABC's
The Practice

and Fox's
Ally McBeal
-from a field of six design firms.

The redesign started more than six months ago, following network executive vice president and general manager Bill Hilary's decision to present a unified on-air, off-air look.

"We can't stand still, either in programming or on-air," said Hilary. "We wanted something fast and energetic," befitting Comedy's current shows as well as 10 new series slated to premiere in the coming year, he added.

Those series will include a new, live-action political satire from the
South Park

creative team and an
Absolutely Fabulous

series set in the theater world, rather than fashion, said spokesman Tony Fox.

Comedy also has acquired off-net rights to the ABC series
Sports Night
. That deal does not include new episodes, due to cost concerns and the fact that creator Aaron Sorkin has shifted focus to NBC's
The West Wing
, said Fox.

The Oct. 30 start date was chosen because many new programs will bow during November, including the
New York Friars Club Roast

of Rob Reiner on Nov. 1; election-night
Indecision 2000

coverage; and new episodes of
South Park


starting Nov. 8, Tankosic said.

Sterling Research Group evaluated consumer perceptions of the network and found that it doesn't call enough attention its breadth of programming, Tankosic said.

Different subsets of viewers enjoy
South Park
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Saturday Night


reruns or comedy movies, but were unfamiliar with Comedy's other shows, she said.

The network previously reinforced that perception by giving each show a distinct look, she added.

The executives showed clips of animated graphics-featuring fast-paced, almost psychedelic circles and stripes-and more colorful end credits. But as of last week, they still were in the process last week of incorporating those images into full-length promotional spots for the various shows.

Calling the new on-air look "just the tip of the iceberg," Risafi said adaptations would also appear in print and outdoor ads this week and on its Web site as of April 1.

That date marks the 10th anniversary of Comedy Central, which was formed by the merger of Home Box Office's The Comedy Channel and MTV Networks' HA! The TV Comedy Network. Comedy's present owners are Viacom Inc. and Time Warner Entertainment Co.

Fox said network executives would not disclose a price on the design overhaul-which will also affect affiliate marketing materials and premiums-or on the marketing support that will back the new look during year one.