The Late Show with Stephen Colbert debuted on September 8 and garnered a massive audience; no less than 6.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the new late night host. The CBS talk show actually overshadowed its counterparts, as revealed by the network’s Nielsen figures.
As much as a 131% boost in ratings was observed from the previous year’s season premiere with David Letterman. The viewership of the show was more than double that of NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, who had a 2.9 million audience, while Jimmy Kimmel of ABC was viewed by only 1.8 million. Before Colbert’s advent, Fallon’s show had reached a mean of 3.3 million viewers, and Kimmel got to 2.2 million.
Nonetheless, Colbert’s success should not come as much of a surprise, given the 51-year-old’s loyal fans from his former Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report. This, in addition to CBS Corporation’s ample promotions, virtually guaranteed the high ratings.
Once all the buzz of the premiere fades, the competition of late-night television will surface. Few media buyers predict Fallon to retain his number one position, given that his 2014 inception attracted as many as 11.3 million viewers. But NBC is far from taking its success for granted. After having confirmed Democratic Hillary Clinton, the network has also managed to rope in controversial personality and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for the show this season.
Meanwhile, Colbert also owned the competition with his opening guests: Hollywood hunk George Clooney, who was also Rosie O’Donnell’s first guest on her talk show back in 1996, and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is the network’s next move.
CEO of CBS Corporation, Leslie Moonves, confessed at a conference for Bank of America, “Colbert could be a significant profit center.” He added that Colbert’s ability to attract a younger and hipper demographic could benefit major advertisers as well.
The next big competitor in this realm of late night television is Trevor Noah, who will helm Comedy Central’s The Daily Show after Jon Stewart’s retirement. An interesting and little-known fact is that Stewart serves an executive producer of Colbert’s current Late Night show, and also held the same position for his previous one, The Colbert Report.
“‘Late Show’ Ratings Heat Up With Colbert,” The Wall Street Journal web site, September 9, 2015.