Trevor Noah Building Interest and Ratings With Election Coverage

Comedy Central president Kent Alterman talks about 'Daily Show's' growth and the status of the 11:30 p.m. time slot.
Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central
Trevor Noah (right) with Bill Clinton

What TV host isn't secretly loving this drawn-out presidential election?

One year after premiering to daunting expectations, both critically and commercially, Comedy Central gamble Trevor Noah is quietly gaining steam in the run-up to the Nov. 8 vote — or, as his Daily Show is calling it, "Democalypse." October marked Noah's most-watched month on record, averaging 1.4 million viewers in live-plus-three-day returns and adding an additional 700,000 viewers per episode with full streams on the network's multiple platforms.

"It really feels like it started to set in around the conventions," Comedy Central president Kent Alterman tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We found that he had somehow immersed himself enough in our culture, our culture being the United States, and also had gotten a certain comfort level to really take control of the show."

In terms of growth, October marked a 16 percent improvement among adults 18-49 and a 22 percent increase among adults 25-34. The show is still a long way off from the days when former host Jon Stewart was obliterating all other late-night shows in the key demo, but Noah is at least pulling Stewart-esque superlatives among young men. In October, The Daily Show was both the highest-rated and most-watched ad-supported late-night talk show among millennial men (both 18-34 and 18-24), the group Comedy Central most aggressively targets.

Linear ratings from Nielsen Media have Noah pulling a median age almost two years younger than Stewart's, with an average of 46.5 years old. That's younger than all but Conan O'Brien in the daily late-night roster, but likely much older than the show's true average. Full-episode streaming is up 57 percent from Stewart's final year.  

"The show has gotten younger and more diverse since Trevor started," adds Alterman, whose non-white share of the adults 18-49 audience has gone up by 5 percent since Stewart. "It's all about the trajectory. It's not that we've hit some new milestone. It's that we're moving in the right direction."

To further move in that desired direction, Comedy Central will marry two strategies for its election coverage. Noah will air live, as he did during the summer's conventions, for a full hour and enjoy a simulcast across much of the Viacom suite. The Daily Show will air on Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Spike, TV Land and MTV 2 starting at 11 p.m. ET this coming Tuesday. (The show has previously only gotten that treatment once, the night Noah first took a seat at the Daily Show desk.)

Given long-term play to make Noah the face Comedy Central, the way Stewart and Stephen Colbert were before him, the network is looking to parlay recent growth into something more sustained. Alterman is not alone there. Anyone even tangentially covering the election is trying to not fall too hard. For Noah, Alterman says it's about solidifying the relationship with younger viewers. "Trevor is the only millennial host himself, and he organically is a reflection of so much of that young millennial audience," he adds. "I think that will carry through after the election."

Speaking of the future, that also includes the yet-to-be-determined fate of the 11:30 p.m. time slot. It's been occupied by a shifted @midnight since the end of The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore — and, per Alterman, that will likely remain status quo for the foreseeable future.

"We're still in the process of coalescing ideas and people," says the cable chief. "We're active, in terms of developing, but we're not going to put anybody on the air until it's ready and it's right. There's no timetable, and we're still in the early stage."

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