Comedy Central Shake-Up: Kent Alterman Replaces Michele Ganeless at Top

Ganeless, whose contract was up this year, will exit the Viacom cable network.
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Michele Ganeless, Kent Alterman

There's a change at the top of another Viacom cable network.

Following her 12-year run, Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless is stepping down, the cable network announced Monday. She will be replaced by her second-in-command, original programming president Kent Alterman. Ganeless will depart at the end of May and will remain on board in an advisory role through September. She will work throughout the transition with Alterman, who assumes the role immediately. Additionally, David Bernath — executive vp programming and multiplatform strategy — has been promoted to Comedy Central GM, reporting to Alterman. 

Most recently, Ganeless oversaw Comedy Central's late-night transition after Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert exited their respective series and, in the months since, the network has seen its ratings decline considerably. Despite critical acclaim and pop cultural buzz for such series as Broad City, the younger-skewing net's primetime lineup has struggled to maintain a robust linear viewership as well. 

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Ganeless' contract was up this year and she was looking to move on to new opportunities, though her exit follows several others -- including top execs at MTV and VH1 -- across the challenged Viacom portfolio.

“It has been a tremendous honor to lead the staggeringly talented team here for the past 12 years, and an absolute privilege to help build the cultural force that is Comedy Central today. The deep connection I have to it and to so many of my colleagues, especially my dear friend and mentor Doug, 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,” said Ganeless. “I am so proud of my time here and what I have been able to accomplish with this team. They are an incredible group of seasoned leaders, led by Kent and Dave, and are ready to step up and lead Comedy Central through its transition into a true multiplatform brand.”
 
Said Viacom president Doug Herzog: “During Michele’s long and successful tenure, Comedy Central has grown into a cultural and multiplatform powerhouse. Her strong and strategic leadership have helped make this brand one of the most admired across media. She is a trusted and talented colleague, a valued confidant and, most importantly, my great friend. I will miss her dearly as she moves along to the next chapter in her career. Kent has an extraordinary talent for uncovering and elevating original comedic voices who bring a distinct point of view to the table. Finding and nurturing great talent is what we do best, and we are doubling down on that approach. When you combine that with Dave’s strong leadership and his ability to make comedy resonate on every platform, you get a team that will be super-focused on delivering the best comedic content to our fans wherever they are”

Alterman is a longtime Comedy Central exec, rising from heading its New York development team (1996-2000) before exiting for Fox Film Studios and New Line. He returned to the company in 2010 and rose from exec vp to president of original programming. He had been reporting to Ganeless as he oversaw the creation of all original programming. His credits include The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, Key & Peele, Drunk History and more.  

Here's Herzog internal memo to staff: 

Hey everyone. I have some news about Michele Ganeless and Comedy Central I had planned to share with you tomorrow. Unfortunately, it leaked to the press this evening. After 25 years as part of this great brand, Michele has decided to step away from her role as President of Comedy Central. During her long and successful tenure the network has grown into a true multiplatform powerhouse. Her strong and strategic leadership have helped build Comedy Central into one of the most admired and culturally relevant brands across the entire media and content spectrum.
 
To fill her very big shoes, Kent Alterman will be stepping into the role of President of the network, reporting to me. Dave Bernath will become General Manager, reporting to Kent. We are enormously fortunate to have such deep bench strength on our team. And while things will be a bit different, we will enjoy the benefit of real continuity for the brand.
 
Michele has a long, rich history with Comedy Central. She was here the very day the network launched — when Mystery Science 3000 and Short Attention Span Theater were the mainstays of our schedule. She left and came back two more times — with stints at MTV and USA in between. In her most recent tour of duty, she returned to lead the brand 12 years ago — and has been guiding the way ever since.
 
Michele has helped propel Comedy Central into the #1 brand in comedy. She presided over a culture that spawned some of the most successful series in cable history including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show, South Park, Tosh.0, Workaholics, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and Broad City — to name just a few. We’ve won Emmys, Peabodys and maybe most importantly — the hearts, minds and eyeballs of loyal fans everywhere they can find a screen.
 
I'm not going to lie, this is a tough moment for me. Michele has been working side by side with me for many, many years. She is a trusted and talented colleague, a valued confidant and advisor and, most importantly, my great friend. I will miss her dearly, as I imagine many of you will, as she moves along to the next chapter in her career. But this is a great time for Comedy Central and I’m confident we won’t miss a beat with Kent and Dave at the helm — and all of you continuing to do the great work you do.
 
I hope you will all join me in thanking her for everything she has done. She has been Comedy Central’s biggest fan and greatest champion and will always be considered part of our family. Please join me in wishing Michele all the best.
 
Here's Ganeless' memo to staff: 
 
I have some big news to tell you that I had hoped to share with you myself tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, it leaked to the press this evening.
 
For the better part of two decades, Comedy Central has been my second home and all of you have been more than just my colleagues, you’ve been like family. I have had the tremendous honor of leading this brand for the past 12 years, and to have played a role in its leadership for 17 of the last 20. It has been an absolute privilege to be part of the explosion of this remarkable brand, and to bear witness to and help build the cultural force that is Comedy Central. The deep connection I have to you, to Comedy Central, and to my friend and mentor, Doug, makes the news I share today so difficult. After considerable thought, I have decided that the time is right to move on and challenge myself in new ways.
 
I am so proud of the team here and my time with all of you. Together, we have built Comedy Central into the premiere destination for comedy across every platform imaginable. We are in the midst of a creative renaissance with the deepest bench of talent in our history — that was in full view at our Upfront in March — and we possess an equally deep bench of seasoned leaders who are ready to step up and take on a bigger role after I depart. You will be hearing more on that from Doug momentarily.
 
Thank you for your dedication and devotion to Comedy Central. You are the best team in the business and I know you will continue to grow what has been built over the past 25 years. I’ll be around through the end of the month and hope to see as many of you as possible before I leave.
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