Kent Alterman has been named Comedy Central president, succeeding Michele Ganeless, who is stepping down following 12 years atop the Viacom network. She will remain day-to-day through the end of May, then switch to an advisory role through the fall.
Alterman had been original programming president. Based in Santa Monica, he reports to Doug Herzog, president, Viacom Media Networks Music & Entertainment Group.
David Bernath, Comedy Central executive VP of programming and multiplatform strategy, has been promoted to general manager. Based in New York, he will report to Alterman.
“Kent has an extraordinary talent for uncovering and elevating original comedic voices who bring a distinct point of view to the table,” said Herzog. “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.”
A network spokesman told Multichannel News that Ganeless’ decision "was 100% Michele's choice."
After working at Young & Rubicam, Ganeless landed in the research department at the Viacom-owned comedy channel HA! in 1990. She stayed on the next year when HA! merged with Time Warner’s Comedy Channel to become Comedy Central.
After a spell at MTV, Ganeless rose through the programming ranks at Comedy Central, then followed Herzog to USA Networks in 2001, where she was executive VP/general manager. Ganeless’ third stint at Comedy Central put her in the GM post in 2004, then president/GM in 2007.
"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.”
During Ganeless’ tenure, shows such as South Park, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City emerged as pop culture touchstones. More recently, Comedy Central has struggled for an identity following the departures of key talent, including Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. In their stead, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore have struggled to pull in viewers and create buzz.