I have to admit that I thought it was a joke at first when I heard the news that Stephen Colbert is leaving The Colbert Report and is going to host the Late Show, currently hosted by David Letterman. The fact that he won’t be “in character” in the new show makes it more intriguing, even as it brings tremendous change to my entertainment universe. However, while it will take some getting used to, looking at Ranker data on the two shows reveals how the change really does make sense for CBS.
Despite the ire of those who disagree with The Colbert Report’s politics, CBS is definitely addressing a need to compete better for younger viewers, who are less likely to watch TV on the major networks. Ranker users tend to be in the 18-35 year old age bracket and The Colbert Report ranks higher than the Late Show on most every list that they both are 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). Further, people who tend to like The Colbert Report also seem to like many of the most popular shows around like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and 30 Rock. In contrast, correlates of the Late Show include older shows like The Sopranos and 60 Minutes. There is some overlap 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 audiences.
I’ll be sad to see “Stephen Colbert” the character go. But it looks like my loss is CBS’ gain.
– Ravi Iyer