"Jon Stewart elects to stay"
New York Daily News
April 24, 2003
by Stephen Battaglio


Presidential hopefuls, look out - Jon Stewart will remain at Comedy Central through the next big elections to offer caustic commentary on the race for the White House.

Stewart, anchor of "The Daily Show," a satirical newscast, and the cable channel's biggest star, has quietly extended his contract with the network through 2004.

Stewart's current deal was up at the end of this year. But Comedy Central executives wanted him locked in through next year so he could cover and comment on the next presidential race, said Larry Divney, president of the channel.

"His platform here is the right one," Divney told the Daily News yesterday. "He's terrific."

Stewart is the first name mentioned these days whenever host changes are considered at the network late-night shows. CBS was ready to turn to Stewart if David Letterman had bolted to ABC. When ABC failed to land Letterman, the network's executives considered Stewart before deciding to go with his Comedy Central colleague Jimmy Kimmel for a new late-night show.

The "Daily Show" coverage of the 2000 race - dubbed "Indecision 2000" - won a George Foster Peabody Award, one of the most prestigious honors in broadcasting.

Word of Stewart's contract extension follows on the announcement that Viacom, the parent company of MTV and Nickelodeon, will become the full owner of the network. Since 1991, Comedy Central has been a 50-50 partnership with AOL Time Warner, which agreed this week to sell its share to Viacom.

Divney said viewers should expect the same kind of edgy programming Comedy Central has fostered in the past to continue in the future.

"They are big fans and big supporters of us," Divney said of the Viacom management team. "It's not like they're buying something they don't know about."

MTV insiders concurred that the creative side of Comedy Central will be left alone under the new ownership arrangement.

"They don't seem like they need any help from us," said one executive.

Comedy Central's original shows such as "South Park," "Chappelle's Show" and "Crank Yankers" are popular with young male viewers, the elusive group that advertisers will pay the most to reach.

Divney believes having a single corporate owner will mean more financial support to develop new shows - since the profits no longer have to be split. New Comedy Central programs will also get more promotional support on other MTV and Nickelodeon channels.

"I think the viewer is going to benefit," he said.


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