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No joke: Comedy Central app launches with 200 episodes

Appropriately timed for April Fools' Day, Comedy Central's new app replaces show-specific apps, creating a one-stop spot with free full episodes of "The Daily Show," "South Park," and more.

Comedy Central's app launches on April Fool's Day (appropriately) with more than 200 full-episode programs
Comedy Central

It's April Fools' Day, but with its new app, Comedy Central isn't kidding around.

Viacom-owned network Comedy Central launched its app for iOS on Tuesday to replace a motley collection of clunky show-specific apps. The new application -- simply called Comedy Central -- offers full episodes of programs like "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report " and late-night game show "@midnight" the day after they air, as well as the most recent season of "South Park," free to anyone.

People who pay for TV through participating cable and satellite companies will get access to nearly 200 total episodes, specials, and shorts, include advance viewing of some programs and full seasons of new and past shows like "Tosh.0," "Broad City," "Futurama," and "Chapelle's Show."

A screen shot with Colbert and South Park on Comedy Central's app for iPhone

Some traditional television companies, especially those with younger audiences, have loosened their grip on content, making more available online and on mobile devices. Resistance grew from fears about putting programming on platforms unmeasured by Nielsen -- the way that TV companies have long ascribed value to shows -- and fears that online watching cannibalizes what's seen on the all-important television, with its surfeit of revenue-generating ads.

However, realizations that more content availability in more places actually results in more viewing total and improvements in measurement and digital advertising -- and, of course, ongoing consumer demand -- have slowly loosened up some companies and their partners in the satellite and cable companies. Viacom has been rolling out new, more robust apps from all its properties, apparently starting with its youngest audience in Nickelodeon and moving to MTV before getting to Comedy Central.

The Comedy Central app is a recognition of how much content is being watched in other places, executive Steve Grimes told CNET. Grimes, the senior vice president of Comedy Central's multi-platform programming strategy, said that most Comedy Central's shows reach half their audience some time after the initial airing via DVR.

"We know that our fans, our core audience are young guys, young people," he said. "They want content on various devices. They don't differentiate between platforms."

The same episodes won't remain on the Comedy Central app forever. Shows that crop up the day after they air, for example, will be removed about three months after the program's season finale in order to shuffle them over to subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix. But the app will have about 200 episodes available at any given time. The app will have fewer ads, by design, to drive fans to download it and watch there. Though clips are quickly shareable on social networks, the app doesn't gum itself up with "second-screen" features to accompany watching on a big screen.

The app will reach other platforms later this year, including the Web in another month or so, Grimes said.