“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” extended its ratings winning streak over “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for a third consecutive week — as the CBS talk-show host continued his anti-President Trump jokes.
Colbert drew 296,000 more viewers than Fallon for the week ended Feb. 17, up from a 130,000-viewer advantage the previous week and a slim 10,000-viewer edge the week ended Feb. 3, according to Nielsen.
Colbert’s politically pointed “Late Show” averaged 3 million viewers last week. The viewership advantage over his NBC rival was the largest since Colbert’s premiere week back in September 2015.
The president’s antics have more Americans engaging not just in news but also in news with a comical slant, said Needham entertainment analyst Laura Martin.
“There’s so much drama in politics these days that it’s become a form of entertainment,” Martin said.
Colbert’s ratings ascendancy is caused by the same phenomenon that is helping “Saturday Night Live” draw more eyeballs, Martin said.
While Fallon still draws more viewers in the coveted demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49, Colbert is narrowing his deficit.
Over the last three weeks, Fallon’s ratings point advantage in the demo has slipped from 0.19 to 0.17 to 0.13, according to Nielsen.
The demo battle is key for the CBS bottom line.
Advertisers will pay up if Colbert is able to wrest the crown from Fallon.
Martin said for CBS to capitalize on a revitalized “Late Show,” Colbert would have to maintain or add to his viewership lead until the up-front market for renegotiating advertising rates begins in May. Those negotiations generally conclude in July for the new TV season starting in September.
Winning the demo ratings race would allow CBS to jack up its advertising rates — which, ironically, would mean that the No. 1 target of Colbert’s jokes would be the No. 1 reason the “Late Show” would become more profitable.
Last week, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves was already claiming “a great story in late night.”
The late-night time slot, which stretches from 11:35 to 1:35 and includes “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” is “delivering 10 percent growth in advertising revenue in 2016 and continued growth here in 2017,” Moonves said on a conference call last week.
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