In 2015, Stephen Colbert will depart from his home at Comedy Central where he’s amassed a huge cult following and head over to the mainstream late show game, replacing David Letterman. CBS is sure hoping he’ll bring all those young fans too.
Say Late Show and you may have already lost a younger demographic of TV viewers whose watching habits have never been tethered to a specific time or place. TiVo, you’ll remember, was first introduced in 1999, when today’s demographic of 18-25 year olds were only children, ages 3-10. The idea of watching the same TV program at the same time every night is not something that Millenials do.
And while David Letterman’s show is available to watch online, many young viewers associate the style and tone of the Late Show with their parent’s generation.
Millennials, it turns out, like TV, just not necessarily from networks. And they like it served two ways: as part of a gluttonous binge (aka that time you didn’t go outside for a whole weekend and watched 2 entire seasons of House of Cards) or in tiny, viral pieces (aka short-form videos) that are easy to watch at work and share on social media. Jimmy Fallon, by the way, has been killing it in this second category with his viral comedy sketches. Ratings for NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are up 46% this week compared to the same week last year.
So, how will Stephen Colbert do with younger viewers? And perhaps more importantly, will be able to hit that sweet-spot of broad appeal that allows him to pick up a large number of new viewers–young and old?
Despite the ire of those who disagree with The Colbert Report’s politics, CBS is definitely addressing this need to compete better for younger viewers. The majority of Ranker users are in the 18-25 age bracket and The Colbert Report ranks higher than the Late Show on almost every list that they are both on, including the Funniest TV shows of 2012 (19 vs. 28), Best TV Shows of All-Time (186 vs. 197), and Best TV Shows of Recent Memory (37 vs. 166).
Furthermore, people who tend to like The Colbert Report also report liking many shows that are currently in the cultural zeitgeist: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and 30 Rock. In contrast, preference for the Late Show is correlated with older shows like The Sopranos and 60 Minutes. Between David Letterman and Stephen Colbert, it looks like it’s Colbert for the win on attracting younger viewers.
There is some overlap between these audiences as fans of both shows like The West Wing and The Daily Show, indicating that Colbert may be able to appeal to current fans as well as new (older) audiences.