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
"I think the viewer is going to benefit,"