Two of Comedy Central’s best series, The Other Two and South Side, will be jumping networks for their second seasons. HBO Max has struck a deal with Comedy Central Productions to exclusively air the upcoming seasons for both shows. The first seasons of each aired on Comedy Central in 2019, and will be coming to HBO Max in 2021. New seasons of both shows will then debut on HBO Max and remain exclusive to the streamer.
You might think this is corporate synergy, but think again. Comedy Central is owned by Viacom CBS, and HBO Max is part of the AT&T / Warner Bros. family. This seems like a case of a network selling off programs that it’s on the hook for but no longer wants to air itself. Both of these shows were developed and renewed by the network’s previous regime. Comedy Central has seen a well-publicized shift in its programming philosophy under new head Chris McCarthy, Viacom’s “President of Entertainment and Youth Brands” who, in November 2019, added the channel to a fiefdom that already included MTV and VH1. Under McCarthy Comedy Central quickly gained a rep for being the future home of ‘90s cartoon revivals, from new seasons of Beavis and Butt-Head and Ren and Stimpy, to a spinoff of Daria. Although South Side and The Other Two are both critically acclaimed shows, they don’t necessarily fit the new image being developed at the network, and aren’t poised to be broadly popular shows with the youth of America.
It’s a little surprising they didn’t wind up going to Viacom’s own streaming service, though. CBS All Access is the official streaming home of the Viacom CBS library, and could use more original comedy programming. The Other Two and South Side are both the kinds of high-quality, niche comedy shows that might not draw a huge audience but should attract a loyal and dedicated one, giving them some amount of value during these crazy, mixed-up streaming wars the industry is engaged in. So not only does this move tell us a good bit about Comedy Central’s plans for the future, it also might indicate Viacom’s lack of interest in original comedy for CBS All Access.
At least now The Other Two and South Side will be free of the notoriously closed off Comedy Central ecosystem. It’s a running joke how Comedy Central shows are basically impossible to watch without a cable subscription. After their runs on the network they basically disappear, making it hard for them to break through in a pop culture environment now defined by streaming and on demand access. The only place most Comedy Central originals wind up streaming is through the official Comedy Central app—which, again, requires an active cable subscription to use. It’s why great shows like The Other Two, South Side, Corporate, the dearly beloved Detroiters, and more never hit the zeitgeist the way they should—Viacom basically makes them impossible to watch for the people who would most like them. Now at least two of these shows will get a second life on a more accessible platform.