August 15, 2013 2:14pm PT by Michael O'Connell
John Oliver Kept Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show' Ratings High While Keeping His Seat Warm
When John Oliver signs off at the conclusion of his brief tenure as The Daily Show host on Thursday night, he can give himself a pat on the back.
Many had legitimate doubts about whether the U.S.S. Daily Show's ratings would stay afloat during the eight weeks without longtime host Jon Stewart -- he took a summer hiatus, his first, to direct a film -- but Oliver has proven to be an equally impressive draw.
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Compared to the same period last summer, with Stewart at the helm, The Daily Show's ratings remain unchanged in Comedy Central's all-important young male demographic. The series held its .97 rating among both men 18-34 and adults 18-34.
Yes, there were modest slips from summer 2012. The average viewership dropped 13 percent from 1.492 million viewers to 1.299 million viewers in Live+Same Day returns, while posting even smaller losses in adults 18-49. But this summer and last make for difficult comparisons for series like The Daily Show and spinoff The Colbert Report.
A year ago today, the politcs-heavy talk shows were just a few weeks out from the Republican and Democratic national conventions ahead of the 2012 U.S. presidential election. The liberal-skewing Stewart saw ratings spike with coverage of Mitt Romney's wall-to-wall campaigning throughout the year. In fact, thanks in no small part to the election, Stewart and Colbert saw respective 24 percent and 23 percent ratings boosts in the third quarter (July-September) last year.
The Colbert Report may actually prove a stronger example for Oliver's success. Though The Daily Show retained the advantage of being the lead-in to Colbert, the second act's perennial No. 2 status was unmoved despite the pinch-hitter sitting in the 11 p.m. anchor desk. The Daily Show also still maintains a strong advantage in the male and adults demos over all broadcast competition such as Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel.
So where does this leave Oliver? While few would argue that the correspondent didn't perform as host -- his tenure has been met, by and large, with a warm critical response -- he also benefited a great deal from the apparently robust Daily Show brand. And nearly 15 years after that brand became synonymous with Jon Stewart, it seems like it might be capable of performing just as well without him.