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For several years, Jimmy Fallon was pretty much the undisputed king of late night. Jimmy Kimmel has had his "Mean Tweets" and other moments and Stephen Colbert has his cheeky take on his former Comedy Central character, along with a newness that comes from being the new guy in the game. Still, Jimmy Fallon was the guy bringing in the biggest numbers, that is, until recently, when Stephen Colbert started stepping up his game. This week, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert achieved its biggest numbers since its premiere week, also managing to beat The Tonight Show in total viewers.
This past week in total viewers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert averaged 3 million total viewers, which puts it ahead of the other late night shows. The week ending on February 17 marks the third week in a row that The Late Show has managed to beat its other late night competitors, per TV By The Numbers. It's a narrow margin of victory, for sure. This week The Late Show with Stephen Colbert only managed an average of 296,000 more viewers than The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Still, considering how poorly Stephen Colbert was performing at this time last year and how much Jimmy Fallon was dominated at the same point, this changeover is remarkable.
Many have noted that the changes Stephen Colbert has made to his format---which include a slew of politically-oriented interviews and segments---has pushed him ahead of Jimmy Fallon in the ratings. When things were less divisive, people were happy to watch Fallon and celebrities play "Box of Lies" or "Pictionary," but now it looks like at least a portion of audiences are trending away from goofy, fun sketches in favor of snarkier late night programs.
It should be noted that Stephen Colbert's audience still skews a little older. Although The Late Show averaged the most total viewers in Live+ Same Day numbers this week, it did not win the ratings in the 18-49 advertising demographic. The Tonight Show is still king in that category, with that show pulling a .67 rating last week. The Late Show trailed with a .54 rating. It should be noted that Jimmy Kimmel Live! is still in the game, pulling a .42 rating and 2.1 million total viewers. Alright, so his show is a clear third place, but that's not why Jimmy Kimmel has been talking about potentially leaving the late night game.
We'll have to wait and see if Stephen Colbert will ever be able to pull ahead with younger viewers, but we'll keep you updated either way. In the meantime, catch new episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on weeknights on CBS. In addition, find out what else is heading to TV with our midseason TV premiere schedule.