EXCLUSIVE: With pilot season, the upfronts and the LA Screenings now behind us, numerous UK broadcasters are in various stages of acquiring next season’s new shows for their schedules (DMD’s S.H.I.E.L.D., SPT’s The Blacklist and CBSSI’s The Millers and We Are Men, are widely tipped to become the first shows from the 2013-2014 season to land those lucrative UK sales). While all eyes are on these new series and the various deals that are being hammered out, TVWise continues its extensive acquisitions coverage with our broadcaster-by-broadcaster breakdown of which current shows will be coming back later this year or early next.
In this rundown (following our rundowns on Alibi, Dave, FOX, Really, TCM and Watch), we take a look at Comedy Central UK. A joint venture between BSkyB and Viacom, Comedy Central launched in the UK in 2009 (as a rebrand of Paramount Comedy), ostensibly as a general entertainment channel, but, as the name suggests, focussing purely on comedy programming, both scripted and unscripted. Since 2009 the channel has grown substantially; 2012 ranked as a record breaking year (with 19% growth year-on-year) and Comedy Central has grown its audience by some 82% since the rebrand. Part of that growth has been down to a recent move into UK originals such as Threesome, but by and large the growth is down to a number of successful acquisitions such as Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, Friends, 30 Rock and The Office.
The channel is poised to continue along the same path as they have just commissioned a pilot for a new studio sitcom titled Mummy’s Boys and are looking to commission longer runs (20+ episodes) of their home-grown shows. That said, acquisitions will still be playing a key role as Comedy Central is also finalising a deal with CBS Studios International to acquire two new comedies from the 2013-2014 season: The Millers and We Are Men. And while the channel has decided not to pick up the final seasons of 30 Rock and The Office, they hold the rights to (and are continuing to air) the 90 episode second season of FX’s comedy series Anger Management and will also be bringing back their other two top performing US imports. I’ve confirmed that Comedy Central has picked up the UK rights to Mike & Molly season 4 and Two and a Half Men season 11 from Warner Bros. International Television Distribution. Full details follow below…
Mike & Molly
Created by Mark Roberts, Mike & Molly follows Mike Biggs, a Chicago police office, and Molly Flynn, a school teacher, who meet at overeaters anonymous and quickly fall in love. The series revolves around this budding couple and their friends and family, including Mike’s partner Carl and Molly’s crazy mom and sister. The comedy series is produced by Chuck Lorre Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television and stars Billy Gardell, Melissa McCarthy, Reno Wilson, Nyambi Nyambi, Swoosie Kurtz, Katy Mixon, Louis Mustillo, Cleo King, Rondi Reed and David Anthony Higgins. Mike & Molly was recently renewed for a fourth season, however, unlike previous seasons when the series has premiered in the fall, CBS has announced that the comedy series is being shifted to their mid-season schedule. No premiere date for season 4 has yet been set.
One of the channel’s more high profile acquisitions, Mike & Molly was acquired from Warner Bros. International Television Distribution in an exclusive deal in 2010. The series, which had been considered a hot property at that year’s LA Screenings, then went on to launch on the channel later that year, airing very close to its US premiere. Mike & Molly (alongside Two And A Half Men) has been described as a very important series for Comedy Central – something which was apparent by the decision to schedule it closely behind its US premiere (other series such as 30 Rock and Whitney have aired between 8 and 12 month behind their premieres state-side) – and singled out as being a key factor in the channel’s growth in the past couple of years. Just like Two And A Half Men, Mike & Molly is a big draw for Comedy Central. The show’s third season, which recently wrapped its run on the channel averaged an audience of around 0.23 million viewers. While those number are about half of the audience for Two and a Half Men, they are above the slot average (as well as beating the most recent average audiences for 30 Rock and The Office) and up on the ratings for season 2. Those figures are more-or-less neck and neck with the average audience for the second season of the Charlie Sheen fronted sitcom Anger Management, ranking behind only Two and a Half Men as the highest rated US series on Comedy Central. Given the ratings performance of the Mike & Molly, the decision to pick up the show’s fourth season was a foregone conclusion. As part of an existing deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, Comedy Central holds the exclusive first run UK broadcast rights to the fourth season of Mike & Molly. I hear that the plan is to air the show’s fourth season closely behind its US premiere, but given that Mike & Molly is currently being eyed by CBS for a mid-season premiere it wont be until Jan-March 2014 at the earliest.
Two And A Half Men
Created by Chuck Lorre, Two And A Half Men originally followed the daily life of Charlie Harper, a former jingle writer turned children’s musician known as Charlie Waffles. Following the departure of Sheen as Harper the series re-focused and now follows the exploits of Walden Schmidt, a lovelorn Internet billionaire with an innocence born out of his lifelong dependence on others to take care of him; Alan Harper, who is still finding a way not to pay for anything; and his son Jake Harper, who recently enlisted in the army. The comedy series is produced by Chuck Lorre Productions & The Tannenbaum Company in association with Warner Bros. Television and Stars Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer, Angus T. Jones and Conchata Ferrell. The eleventh season of the series, which will see the departure of Angus T. Jones as a series regular and the addition of a new character who is Charlie Harpers gay daughter, is set to premiere on CBS in the United States on Thursday September 26th.
Comedy Central’s highest rated US import, Two And A Half Men has long been a fixture on the channel. The series was acquired way back in 2004 when the channel was known as Paramount Comedy and has long been a strong performer – with the series having been singled out as a key reason for the channel’s ratings growth in recent years. Having long ranked as the top performer on Comedy Central there was, naturally, some trepidation about the show’s ninth season which saw Ashton Kutcher replace Charlie Sheen as the lead in the series. That, however, was unfounded as the ninth season premiere on Comedy Central attracted over 0.8 million viewers; well above the average audience for season 8 and nearly 500% up on the slot average. Since then, Two and a Half Men, with Kutcher in the lead role, has (just as it did with Sheen in the role) consistently ranked as the highest rated import on the channel, with the show’s tenth season averaging an audience of 0.48 million viewers; well above the slot average. With those numbers there was no real question as to whether or not the show’s eleventh season would air in the UK on Comedy Central. Especially as the channel are looking to use Men as a spring board for at least one of their upcoming acquisitions (CBS’ The Millers and We Are Men). It was for that reason that last month Comedy Central closed a deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution to acquire the exclusive first run UK broadcast rights to the eleventh season of the series. The show’s eleventh season will again air close behind its US premiere, with Comedy Central currently eyeing an early October premiere.