Laugh-in: Ganeless upped

Gets top post at Comedy Central

Longtime Comedy Central executive Michele Ganeless has been promoted to president of the cable network.

Ganeless has been executive vp and GM since 2004 but worked at the channel in the early 1990s and again from 1996-2001. In her expanded role, she will seek to strengthen the Comedy Central brand and its programming on-air and online.

"Our focus over the last 18 months has really been to (expand) the depth and breadth of programming on the air and every other platform, which we've done a great job of," Ganeless said. "But our mandate is to continue doing that."

She noted the recent deal with "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker that calls for the creation of a digital animation studio as part of an effort to reach fans across all platforms. (The $75 million deal also will see Stone and Parker get a 50-50 ad split on digital platforms and produce three more seasons of "South Park.") Ganeless said the network is planning to announce other digital initiatives in the coming weeks but did not offer details.

She noted, however, that the digital arena is just one part of the network's overall focus.

"It's about our entire brand," she said. "The business of Comedy Central is bigger than just our digital and on-air; we want to maximize our brand wherever we can. (That includes) everything from the touring business to the consumer products business to ad sales relationships and affiliate sales relationships and the digital business, but most importantly, our bread and butter will continue to be the channel."

Ganeless, based in New York, will continue to report to MTV Networks Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog, who was president of Comedy Central (along with serving as president of Spike TV and overseeing TV Land) until being promoted to his current position in December. Herzog also worked with Ganeless at USA, where he was president and she was executive vp and GM from 2001-04.

"I have worked with Michele Ganeless for over a decade, both here and at USA, and she has provided great leadership for Comedy Central," Herzog said. "Michele has extraordinary credentials and experience in all aspects of television. Her passion for this network is evidenced by her longtime service here, and she is an invaluable asset as we continue to build and solidify our business."

Ganeless noted that the network has a "big fall" ahead of it with the second-season launch of "The Sarah Silverman Program," which she said will include a "huge" marketing campaign, along with the kickoff of "Indecision 2008" as the presidential campaigns heat up.

Ganeless joined the channel in 1990 -- when it was known as Ha! before merging with Time Warner's Comedy Channel in 1991 -- as research manager before serving as vp research and planning at sister network MTV from 1992-95. She was named vp programming at Comedy Central in 1996 and was upped to senior vp four years later. In that role, Ganeless played a key role in developing a programming strategy that led to five consecutive years of ratings growth and was a key member of the team that launched "The Daily Show" and "South Park."

At USA, Ganeless oversaw the launches of such series as "Monk" and "The Dead Zone."