A Kingdom in Turmoil: Who is the new King of Late Night TV?

 In Behavioral Analysis, Case Studies, Competitive Analysis, Consumer Behavior, Featured, Growth, Popular, Site Analysis, Streaming, Trends

2016 was rough for everyone, late night TV comedians included. Not only did faces like Larry Wilmore disappear from the late night landscape, but last year’s King of Late Night TV, Jimmy Fallon, was dethroned by foe and friend Stephen Colbert. On the upside, we got our first-ever female late night TV host in Samantha Bee, who has been shaking up conventions and streaming rates since February 2016.

This year we conducted the same analysis as last year. We looked at the leading late night TV hosts, including Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Trevor Noah, Bill Maher, Larry Wilmore, Seth Meyers, and Samantha Bee, and analyzed streaming rates on their respective TV network sites (ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, HBO, NBC and TBS), as well as the shows’ dedicated YouTube channels.

Below is a full look at how, when and where we all laughed with our favorite late night hosts.

Power to the People (of YouTube)

Our new findings reaffirm what we (and the TV industry) have been seeing for a while: People are increasingly watching TV online. More specifically, viewers are heading to YouTube to watch the best clips of their favorite hosts, forgoing the traditional TV watching experience of older generations.

Looking at data from August 1 through November 15, 2016, we found that overall streaming of late night TV shows is up 19 percent year-over-year. YouTube was a driving force in this, as it accounted for nearly 90 percent of the overall streaming activity, which is an 8 percent increase from 2015.

To meet the demand of viewers, many networks have created dedicated YouTube channels for their late night TV host in addition to streaming episodes on their network site, which has helped them reach more viewers and increase overall market share.

In 2015, for example, 88 percent of Trevor Noah’s streaming activity took place on his network’s site (comedycentral.com) which he shared with other Comedy Central comedians like Larry Wilmore. By 2016, Noah had a dedicated YouTube channel, with roughly two thirds of the streaming activity funneling through YouTube and the rest through his network domain. With the creation of his YouTube channel, Noah’s market share increased from just 6 percent in 2015 to 17 percent in 2016, a 166 percent year-over-year increase.

Here’s a snapshot of how each late night host performed in 2016 compared to 2015 on YouTube and their respective network sites. The hosts are ranked by their 2016 market share.

# Host YoY Changes in Market Share 
1 Stephen Colbert (CBS) 12%
2 Trevor Noah (CC) 166%
3 Jimmy Fallon (NBC) -41%
4 John Oliver (HBO) -16%
5 James Corden (CBS) 146%
6 Conan O’Brien (TBS) -37%
7 Jimmy Kimmel (ABC) -47%
8 Samantha Bee* (TBS) N/A
9 Seth Meyers (NBC) 166%
10 Bill Maher (HBO) -7%
11 Larry Wilmore* (CC) N/A

*Samantha Bee’s show debuted in Feb 2016 and Larry Wilmore’s show ended in early Aug 2016.

**Last year’s analysis is based on data from 8/1-10/18, this year’s analysis is based on data from 8/1-11/15 to have a better understanding of how the 2016 election affected online viewership.

The Fall of Fallon

Stephen Colbert, loved by all, is the new King of Late Night as he took 21 percent of the overall late night TV viewers, dethroning last year’s winner, Jimmy Fallon. Colbert’s win was the result of a 12 percent year-over-year growth, while Fallon’s share decreased by 41 percent in 2016, the second largest decrease in market share for the entire sample of hosts analyzed. The other Jimmy, Jimmy Kimmel, was the biggest loser as his share of viewers dropped by a whopping 47 percent year-over-year.

Colbert’s rise to the top occurred recently though, as he only had 17 percent of market share in January, and grew to 23 percent in November. The biggest jump in his viewer-base took place in July, due to his widely viewed political videos like Melania Trump Did Not Plagiarize Her RNC Speech and Jon Stewart Takes Over Colbert’s Late Show Desk.

How Long will Colbert’s Reign Last?

Three notable up-and-comers are poised to dethrone Colbert next year: Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers and James Corden. While Colbert had the largest slice of market share, these three experienced the highest year-over-year audience growth, which can partly be attributed to the creation of dedicated YouTube channels.

Noah and Meyers had the largest year-over-year increase, each growing by 166 percent. Corden came in a close second, with a 146 percent increase in market share from 2015. The power of dedicated YouTube channels was evident in Noah’s increase of market share, as it grew substantially following the launch of his channel in June. His increase wasn’t just domestic though, as he saw a 477 percent year-over-year increase in international streamers as well. Meyers may only attract 4 percent of the overall viewer-base (trailing Noah by 13 percentage points), but he is quickly becoming more popular. This is evidenced by his 166 percent year-over-year growth in market share, along with a 250 percent increase in US online viewers.  

Bottom Line: The late night TV landscape is alive and well on YouTube and the network sites. While many viewers are no longer sitting down on the couch to watch an entire episode, YouTube has given these comedians a more direct way of reaching their viewers. Comparing our analysis to last year, it’s clear that market share, and subsequent success as a late night TV host, is dependent on YouTube. 2017 is sure to be an eventful one, so we’re excited to see how the various hosts jockey for the number one spot.

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