Late night television is a competitive game for the major networks, and CBS has struggled somewhat in the ratings ever since Stephen Colbert shook things up as new host of The Late Show. Of course, the presidential election was a long, drawn-out media event that affected ratings all across the TV board, and numbers were bound to change once Donald Trump took office as president. Now, some of those numbers are in, and it turns out that Donald Trump's presidency has resulted in solid ratings for Stephen Colbert.
The Late Show officially ranks as the most-watched late night show in the United States for the past two consecutive weeks, which is something that the series has not accomplished since Stephen Colbert took the top job back in September 2015. Colbert drew in the highest number of total viewers of all the other late night hosts to hit the airwaves. According to Deadline, The Late Show averaged slightly over 3 million viewers last week, which equals out to Stephen Colbert's most significant weekly crowd in this whole season.
If these were any other couple of weeks, we might be able to wave away the ratings streak as a fluke. Given that The Tonight Show's ratings have jumped in the same span of time that a new president has taken office in the White House, however, it's easy to see that the American public is looking to Stephen Colbert for his spin on current events. He certainly doesn't shy away from comedic commentary on Donald Trump's new administration. Colbert's opening monologue each night generally features a handful or two of jokes at the government's expense.
That said, Stephen Colbert still has plenty of competition in the late night game. The last two weeks have seen The Late Show win in overall viewership, but The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon came out on top in the 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54 age demographics. Nevertheless, The Late Show remains strong with audiences over the age of 50, and the 50+ demographic is one that watches a great deal of TV, pays attention to politics, and votes in major elections. Even if The Late Show never manages to overtake the rest of its competition in all the key demos, it may well cement itself as the place to be on network TV for adults 50+, and that's a substantial audience.
It should be interesting to track how Stephen Colbert and The Late Show compare to Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show moving forward. Colbert tends to be more blunt and caustic with his jokes than the goofier Fallon, and if audiences continue to want more commentary than games out of their nightly viewing, Colbert may become king of late night TV. We'll have to wait and see.
Tune in to CBS on weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET to see new episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and don't forget to check out our midseason TV premiere schedule.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).