For a Few Laughs

When Viacom 18 announced the launch of Comedy Central in India, the decision was viewed with some scepticism. The industry wondered how a niche 24-hour comedy channel would be received in the country and how the channel will compete with other general entertainment channels that also air comedy shows. "People lead such stressful lives that we felt a definite need for a 24-hour comedy channel," says Ferzad Palia, Senior VP and General Manager, English Entertainment, Viacom18. "The format of the channel is to show world's best comedy. We aren't concerned if we show it first or not," he adds.

Comedy Central, an American channel, was first launched in 1991. Since 2006, the channel has expanded globally with localised channels and on January 23, 2012, it made its India debut.

For those who grew up in the '90s, Kevin Arnold, Jerry Seinfeld and Eric Forman are familiar names. And so are the shows they were a part of The Wonder Years, Seinfeld and That 70s Show respectively. Comedy Central's programming for India has given them a new lease of life. "Comedy works best on repeat," Palia points out.

The channel has a fair mix of both American and British comedies. While shows like Allo Allo and Coupling are popular names from British television, That 70s Show, South Park, The Wonder Years and Seinfeld are popular American shows. While many have complained the repeats of old shows, Palia confirms that they finalised the programming after much research. "When we decided to launch the channel in India, we conducted a survey where we found out that most people faked about having liked a particular show. So many people who claimed to have liked Seinfeld or Goodness Gracious Me, did not even recognise the show's clip when we showed it to them."

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