Late-Night Hosts Get Job Security in Trump Era With Long-Term Deals

Trevor Noah, John Oliver and Bill Maher are getting multiyear extensions from Comedy Central and HBO.
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Trevor Noah, John Oliver and Bill Maher

As the Trump administration continues to provide unprecedented fodder for late-night TV, networks are locking in hosts to long-term deals.

Comedy Central became the latest to do so, handing out a massive five-year contract extension Sept. 14 to keep Trevor Noah hosting The Daily Show through 2022, well beyond the next presidential election.

The half-decade pact is as much an insurance policy as it is a vote of confidence for Noah from the Viacom-owned network, which was famously caught hostless a few years ago when its stable of talent (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and John Oliver) used the conclusion of contracts — or, in Oliver's case, the absence of one — to jump ship.

Noah's new deal — which is said to be in the low- to mid-seven figures a year, still a far cry from Jimmy Fallon's reported $16 million and Colbert's and Jimmy Kimmel's reported $15 million — solidifies his status as the network's late-night linchpin. Beginning Sept. 25, he also will serve as a hands-on producer for lead-out The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper. Per Comedy Central president Kent Alterman, that one-two punch of political shows will allow the network to "rebuild the power hour we've been accustomed to in the past."

Noah's news follows HBO's moves to keep politically minded hosts Oliver and Bill Maher in their chairs through 2020. In May, TBS locked in Conan O'Brien through 2022, which is how long Bee is committed as well (though Full Frontal officially has been renewed only through January). At NBC, Fallon and Seth Meyers are under deals to remain through 2021; CBS has Colbert and James Corden through 2020; and ABC has Kimmel through 2019.

The flurry of pricey extensions comes as the landscape grows increasingly crowded, with networks investing in new series (Hulu's I Love You, America, Comedy Central's The Jim Jefferies Show) in their collective bid to grab a slice of late-night's growing viewership and buzz.

"That money used to exist in syndication," notes one top unscripted agent. "The money is in news and late night now. That's where people who are watching MSNBC all day go at night." 

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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