Is Stephen Colbert's Late Night Success Here To Stay? Here's What The Numbers Say

stephen colbert the late show

The Late Show struggled in the ratings for a long time after Stephen Colbert took over hosting duties from David Letterman. Colbert was a proven late night personality thanks to his work on The Colbert Report, but he originally worked to tone down his political slant for CBS. Recently, however, Colbert has gone political, and the ratings enjoyed a major boost. Now, the latest batch of ratings are in, and they point toward The Late Show holding on to its success moving forward.

According to the latest measurements, The Late Show is the most-watched late-night series on average for the seventh straight week. An average of 3.2 million people tuned in to catch Stephen Colbert's take on current events and politics last week. THR reports that the 3.2 million was enough to give The Late Show the edge over its closest competitor, which was Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show with 3.1 million viewers. Of course, the numbers may be a little bit skewed due to the fact that March Madness broadcasts meant Late Show reruns for two of the five nights of the week, but the average still holds.

That said, Stephen Colbert and The Late Show aren't entirely on top of the late night game. The Late Show was only the most-viewed late night program, not the highest rated. NBC's The Tonight Show still wins in the 18-49 age demographic. During the week that saw The Late Show win in viewership, The Late Show only scored a 0.54 in the key demo, which is 39% less than the 0.75 scored by The Tonight Show. Given that NBC is reportedly pushing Jimmy Fallon to take a more political slant and attract some of the viewers who flocked to Colbert, there's a chance that we'll see the viewership race tighten up between the two shows.

There's also the chance that Stephen Colbert's political slant will lose some of its appeal moving forward. It's no coincidence that the bump in viewership has come with the beginning of Donald Trump's presidency; we may see that viewers aren't looking at laugh at any political shenanigans for the indefinite future. It should be interesting to discover what happens the further we get into the current presidential administration. Personally, I'm loving Colbert's political monologues. He seems to have found the perfect balance between his Colbert Report commentaries and classic late night TV comedy.

Stephen Colbert isn't going entirely political on The Late Show. We still get plenty of pop culture commentary gags, which have included everything from a sick burn on the Weather Channel to songs about current events. Check out Stephen Colbert's brand of late night entertainment for yourself on weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET. For a look at what you can watch during primetime, take a gander at our midseason TV premiere schedule and our summer TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

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, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.