Party Pooping Paramount Purges Comedy Central Website

Comedy News Comedy Central
Party Pooping Paramount Purges Comedy Central Website

In the latest example of “corporations can’t let us have nice things,” Paramount Global has removed 25 years’ worth of content from the website of Comedy Central. The move comes after the media conglomerate wiped the archive of MTV News and made similar content changes to other Paramount-owned websites, including Country Music Television and TV Land. Paywalls win again. 

For decades, the Comedy Central website has played host to network classics. In the heydays of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, users could flock there to catch up on segments they might have missed, ones, as Paramount must have forgotten, that drove the political and cultural conversations. But we did not just lose the two news titans. Clips of shows like Key & Peele, South Park, and Crank Yankers are no more. Links now redirect to the streaming platform, Paramount+. 

As always, the corporation tried to sell destruction as a win for consumers. “As part of broader website changes across Paramount, we have introduced more streamlined versions of our sites, driving fans to Paramount+ to watch their favorite shows,” the company said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. Thank you so much. 

Shows are not impacted equally. The complete runs of Key & Peele and South Park are available to be streamed on Paramount+ and Max. But older episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, for example, are now all but gone, relegated only to YouTube and the whims of fans (that is, if there are no copyright flags). Time will tell whether clips surface elsewhere, but is Paramount really likely to go through the trouble of re-uploading all of these episodes to another platform? Doubtful. 

Warner Bros. made a comparably disgusting move in 2022 when they purged dozens of animation titles from the service then-known as HBO Max. Not only did they remove works without notice, but they axed clips too. It is no surprise that executives at Paramount would similarly fail to see the value in preserving decades’ worth of comedy clips. Look beyond the bottom line, and it is obvious that in those Comedy Central clips one sees the history of 21st century comedy, a vibrant archive of how people discovered, watched, and were impacted by this content. And just like that, it is all gone. 

Paramount’s decision is somewhat surprising given the upward trend of classic comedy clips posted online. Official channels for classic programs like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Carol Burnett Show have popped up on YouTube. Letterman and Conan have followed in the footsteps of Johnny Carson, whose estate for years has posted classic moments from The Tonight Show. Even now, The Daily Show, for example, maintains an active archive of segment clips from recent years. YouTube, of course, is far from perfect (and not an actual archive), but it is a better alternative than Paramount’s sabotage. 

The move also comes amidst a broader corporate trend to restrict fair use and tighten their grips on copyrighted material. See, for example, the lawsuit in the United States, Hachette v. Internet Archive. Four of the largest publishers in the world —Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Wiley— sued the online library for their practice of digitally lending books. Thus far, more than 500,000 books are now unborrowable as Internet Archive appeals the decision. It’s all the same shit. Here’s hoping folks like Stewart, Colbert, and Daily Show alum John Oliver can weigh in and help turn the tide.

Will DiGravio is a Brooklyn-based critic and researcher, who first contributed to Paste in 2022. He is an assistant editor at Cineaste, a GALECA member, and since 2019 has hosted The Video Essay Podcast. You can follow and/or unfollow him on Twitter and learn more about him via his website.

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