Paramount rounds out a grim month for media preservation by nuking 25 years of Comedy Central video

A hard drive on fire.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The video archive on the Comedy Central website hosted footage from every episode of The Daily Show since 1999, clips from all 11 seasons of The Colbert Report, bits from Key & Peele, South Park, and Workaholics, and more. Yesterday, Paramount removed the video archive and its 25 years of footage from the site, where a popup now tells you "most Comedy Central series are no longer available," but "you can sign up for Paramount+ to watch many seasons of Comedy Central shows."

While we can assume some of that archive will make the transfer to Paramount+—presumably whichever shows seem most profitable to Paramount Global's trio of CEOs, who recently declared a cost-cutting campaign to address the corporation's failing finances (via Hollywood Reporter)—the erasure continues what's been a dire month for media preservation. Earlier this week, Paramount shuttered and culled its two decades of news coverage, as reported by Variety. Last week, the Internet Archive removed access to 500,000 digitized books, following a lawsuit from major book publishers.

These losses of media stores evoke the same long-held concerns that motivate proponents of game preservation—namely, that once access to a piece of media is lost, that media too often becomes impossible to recover. In addition to its library of digitized books, the Internet Archive hosts upwards of 20,000 PC and MS-DOS games, many of which would otherwise be in danger of being lost forever to outdated tech standards or failing hardware and storage media.

Once digital media ages out of immediate relevance, it requires deliberate effort to ensure it isn't lost. Unless it'll deliver shareholder profits, that effort isn't one we can safely expect corporate media stewards to invest in. Out-of-print games languish waiting for remasters that may never come; live-service, digital-only games evaporate into the aether once the plug is pulled (Marvel Heroes RIP, I miss you every day). Meanwhile, as The Verge reported in 2023, companies like Warner Bros. Discovery are so profit margin-poisoned that they're willing to cancel shows for a tax write-off, leaving anyone who worked on the production with nothing to show for it and no way to access what they'd made.

I'd like to trust in the internet as a distributed bastion of human knowledge, but frankly, the signs aren't reassuring about what we stand to lose without supporting archival efforts. According to a Pew Research study, 38% of webpages that were accessible in 2013 are gone in 2024, 54% of Wikipedia articles cite at least one website that no longer exists, and more than 20% of news and government web pages have broken links to nowhere. Chin up, though. Some of that stuff will probably end up on Paramount+ eventually. 

Lincoln Carpenter

Lincoln spent his formative years in World of Warcraft, and hopes to someday recover from the experience. Having earned a Creative Writing degree by convincing professors to accept his papers about Dwarf Fortress, he leverages that expertise in his most important work: judging a video game’s lore purely on the quality of its proper nouns. With writing at Waypoint and Fanbyte, Lincoln started freelancing for PC Gamer in Fall of 2021, and will take any excuse to insist that games are storytelling toolkits—whether we’re shaping those stories for ourselves, or sharing them with others. Or to gush about Monster Hunter.