Stephen Colbert's 'Late Show' Turns One: How Its Ratings Stack Up

Jimmy Fallon remains a dominant force, though CBS is now faring slightly better with younger viewers.
Courtesy of ABC; NBC; CBS
Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert

It's been a year since the spat of seismic adjustments to late night's landscape came to a close, and one thing remains constant: There's no touching Jimmy Fallon.

On the eve of the new fall season, NBC's The Tonight Show managed a rare feat. Telecasts during the week of Aug. 29 bested competition from CBS' Stephen Colbert and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel combined. (Fallon took a 0.81 rating among adults 18-49 to Kimmel's 0.41 and Colbert's 0.39.) Fallon typically holds a healthy lead, but the last time his show had that status was over nine months ago.

Looking at broadcast's 11:35 p.m. talk shows — on the anniversary of Colbert formally moving into David Letterman's old Late Show time slot — reveals an enduring and substantial advantage for Fallon. Between the top of the last broadcast season and the end of August, Fallon slipped only 10 percent with the new competition, averaging just shy of a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49.

Colbert, who swapped No. 2 and 3 status with Kimmel during several of the last season, heads into his second year as the only host having improved his time slot. The Late Show is up a modest 5 percent since the final year of David Letterman, averaging a 0.6 rating among adults 18-49. Kimmel, down 13 percent from 2014-15, closes out the full 52-week calendar with an average 0.53 rating in the key demo.

The contest for total viewers paints a similar staggering of placement. Tonight pulled an average 3.62 million viewers over the last 12 months, topping The Late Show's 2.75 million and Jimmy Kimmel Live!'s 2.3 million.

Year over year, the 12:34 shows have a decidedly different narrative. Both Seth Meyers and James Corden, hosting NBC's Late Night and CBS' The Late Late Show respectively, are virtually unmoved. Meyers, recently besting even Colbert and Kimmel thanks to his lead-in and (perhaps) his status as the lone broadcaster focusing on politics, averaged a 0.45 rating among adults 18-49 for the last year. Cordon averaged a 0.32 rating.

Things have settled since Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart retired from their late-night posts between 2014 and 2015, but the genre hasn't been entirely without change. August brought the demise of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show, which averaged just a 0.26 rating in the key demo over the last year — a hair behind TBS' Conan O'Brien. (TBS also now boasts critical favorite Samantha Bee with her Full Frontal — but airing once weekly at 10:30 p.m., she is not a traditional late-night host.)

As for Trevor Noah, the new Daily Show host may not be pulling the dominant demo numbers of his predecessor — but he does have the advantage of at least tying one of the stronger broadcast shows. Noah closes out his first year as host of the Comedy Central flagship with an average 0.45 rating in the key demo and 1.17 million viewers.

Late Show Rankings — Adults 18-49; Total Viewers
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon — 0.99 rating; 3.618 million
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert — 0.60 rating; 2.75 million
Jimmy Kimmel Live! — 0.53 rating; 2.3 million
Late Night With Seth Meyers — 0.45 rating; 1.537 million
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah — 0.45 rating; 1.17 million
The Late Late Show With James Corden — 0.32 rating; 1.23 million

*Nielsen Media averages, Sept. 21, 2015 through Sept. 4, 2016

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