A mere three months after leaving his 16-year gig as host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, comedian Jon Stewart has signed an exclusive four-year production deal with HBO. His first project will be to create short-form digital content multiple times a day for over-the-top (OTT) service HBO Now. HBO will also get first dibs on any movies or TV shows Stewart dreams up in the next four years.
“Jon Stewart led a revolution that changed the face of TV comedy on the ‘Daily Show,’ ” Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming, said in a statement. “He graced our network nearly 20 years ago, so we’re thrilled to welcome back his immense talents in this next chapter of his career.”
As with Monday’s news about CBS’ new “Star Trek” series set to run first on OTT service CBS All Access, Stewart’s deal is notable for its emphasis on digital content. HBO in general is charging hard into the digital on-demand world, first with its decision to finally offer HBO via the Internet with HBO Now, then with acquiring the rights to first-run “Sesame Street” episodes that will do gangbusters with kids on its digital platforms, and then by locking down sports commentator/Grantland father Bill Simmons to create short-form content for online purposes. That’s in addition to critical darling (and fellow “Daily Show” alum) John Oliver lighting up YouTube with segments from his weekly late-night news/talk show, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos famously said his goal was “to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” That race might be closer than anyone thought.