Have you heard the one about the Canadian TV marketing executive hired by one of America’s biggest specialty channels?
Walter Levitt, the former chief marketing officer for Canwest Broadcasting, has been named executive vice-president of marketing for U.S. specialty channel Comedy Central. His appointment is effective April 11 and yes, he might be able to get you tickets to The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.
“As somebody who has made media marketing my career, Comedy Central is one of the most fun, coolest brands I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on,” said Levitt in a telephone interview Monday. “It truly is one of the dominant brands in the media space.”
Working out of New York, the Montreal native will be responsible for the Viacom-owned channel’s brand development, consumer marketing and cross-business initiatives. He will report directly to Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless, who praised his “unparalleled” experience and pedigree.
“He has been masterful at building consistent brand messaging across multiple screens,” said Ganeless, in a release.
Levitt, 43, has spent the bulk of his career in media marketing, most recently with the former Canwest Broadcasting (now Shaw Media). He joined Canwest in 2005 and spent six years with the company, implementing a mandate to create what he calls “Wow” marketing before departing in November.
With an estimated 98 million subscribers in the U.S. and another 40 million in foreign markets–a number that exceeds the total subscribers for the entire Canwest specialty portfolio–Comedy Central is one of the TV’s premium cable brands.
Levitt will oversee a marketing department comprised of an estimated 75 people, as well as teams devoted to the channel’s ancillary businesses, which include digital assets, live comedy tours and a comedy record label. “There’s a lot of tentacles to this network and I think it will be a lot of fun,” he said.
Levitt said his initial goal upon leaving the former Canwest was to stay in Canada, but continued consolidation in the broadcast media sector–the past decade has seen broadcast groups such as Alliance Atlantis and CHUM Limited absorbed by bigger entities–has made senior level opportunities scarce.
“This opportunity came up and it’s one that is fun, exciting and challenging and involves a brand that is huge and well-respected,” he said. “It was too good to pass up.”
Levitt said that Comedy Central’s core audience of young males provides latitude to be both bold and irreverent in its marketing. “This is certainly a brand that has permission from its viewers to push boundaries with its marketing,” he said. “That’s the best kind of brand to work on. In many ways it reminds me of when [Canwest] re-launched Showcase and we were able to be boundary pushing with our marketing.”
So has he heard any good jokes lately?
“Just because I’m a marketing executive for Comedy Central doesn’t mean I’m funny,” he said.