Comedy Central has confirmed that network president Michele Ganeless is leaving the network, and original programming president Kent Alterman will step into that role effective immediately.
David Bernath, Comedy Central’s executive VP of programming and multiplatform strategy, has been promoted to general manager. Ganeless will remain on board as an adviser until September.
News of Ganeless' departure leaked a day ahead of the announcement, with some reports tying her departure to the network's falling ratings and comments Viacom CEO Philipe Dauman made recently about a pending revival at Comedy Central.
A network spokesman, however, said the decision "was 100% Michele's choice."
"The coverage has been somewhat inaccurate," he said. "Her contract was up this year, and she made the decision not to stay and to move on to the next chapter in her career."
Ganeless, who was part of the team that launched the network in 1991, and Doug Herzog, president of Viacom Media Networks, Music and Entertainment, officially announced the change Tuesday morning (May 10).
"It has been ... an absolute privilege to help build the cultural force that is Comedy Central today," Ganeless said. "The deep connection I have to it and to so many of my colleagues, especially my dear friend and mentor Doug [Herzog], made this decision incredibly difficult. But after considerable thought, I have decided that the time is right to move on and challenge myself in new ways.”
Ganeless joined Viacom in 1990 and, except for a three-year stint at USA Network (2001-04), has remained there. She became network GM on her return in 2004 and was promoted to network president as well in 2007.
Comedy Central credited Ganeless with steering the network from a linear channel to a multiplatform brand that last year won a network-record eight Emmy Awards (from a total of 26 nominations).
Alterman, who will remain based in Santa Monica, Calif., will report to Herzog; Bernath, based in New York, will report to Alterman.
The new network president, who Comedy Central said was "a key voice in selecting Trevor Noah as the new host of The Daily Show and launching The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, had been named original programming president in 2013, three years after rejoining the network in 2010 as head of prgramming and production. He had previously spent four years in development at Comedy Central (1996-2000).
Since 2010, Comedy Central said, Alterman has more than doubled the network's original series, creating and developing hit franchises including Emmy Award-winning series Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight with Chris Hardwick, Drunk History, the Emmy-nominated Key & Peele, Broad City and Workaholics, among others.