How Late Night Shows Make Money Off Of Viral Sketches

Ratings is a word that is bandied about quite often in relation to TV programs---especially network TV programs in the US. Ratings help the networks to gauge how well their programs may be doing compared to other shows. Ratings also are a major factor for the networks in determining what shows will live to see another year on a given network, as channels still earn a lot of ad revenue from live TV. However, late night programs like The Late Late Show with James Corden have figured out alternative ways to bring in revenue, including creating videos with viral potential for millions of millions of viewers. But how does the show make money off of these videos? As it turns out, integration may be the answer.

For those who are not in the world of advertising, integration might sound like a high-falutin word that makes something sound fancier than it is, and you would not be wrong. Integration essentially means that The Late Late Show and other programs find ways to partner with corporations to increase their brand awareness. So, for instance, an example with James Corden's popular "Carpool Karaoke" segment was when Corden and Selena Gomez stopped at a McDonald's on the way to the CBS lot. Yes, that was scripted, and yes, the show was paid for the stunt.

Executive Producer Ben Winston says that he and James Corden pored over the idea forever before agreeing to partner with McDonald's, telling Variety that they wouldn't have agreed if it had felt like blatant product placement:

We made sure it was incredibly subtle so our viewers would not for a second think that this was a sponsored bit. James and I debated it for many hours.

The video nabbed over 45 million total views on YouTube. The jury's still out on whether or not the product placement was really all that subtle:

selena gomez mcdonald's

Clearly that was a success, but James Corden and his producing team aren't taking every brand opportunity they are offered. They aren't into product placement for the sake of product placement, and they want to make sure the show is identified with brands that appeal to the younger viewers James Corden has been able to pull in thanks to his viral success. So don't expect to see him plugging L.L. Bean or Maxwell House coffee anytime soon. Regardless, as more and more TV content moves online, I would expect this integration trend to continue.

New episodes of The Late Late Show with James Corden air weeknights at 12:37 p.m. ET on CBS. Or, you know, catch it on YouTube.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.