Trevor Noah, Comedy Central's Young 'Daily Show' Heir, Could Reverse an Aging Audience

The 31-year-old will offer an infusion of fresh blood as Jon Stewart's viewership skews older than that of most series on the youthful network.
Byron Keulemans
Trevor Noah

In designating 31-year-old contributor Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart's heir to the Daily Show desk, Comedy Central is about to boast a network first: a late-night host who's also part of its targeted demographic.

Beloved as Stewart might be, the 52-year-old aged out of the Comedy Central's coveted men 18-34 demographic before he began his 16-year tenure. Noah's anointment is a clear sign that youth remains a mandate at the network — even after the selection of Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore, 53, to occupy Stephen Colbert's old half-hour.

Read More Trevor Noah to Replace Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show'

"This is a network audience that's about two-thirds male overall and half of them 18-34," says Sam Armando, a senior vp at ad firm SMGx. "The Daily Show, in its success, has been on the upper end of that. Giving the show to a 31-year-old guy can really bring down that median age."

While young, the Daily Show viewer has aged with Stewart and is still roughly a decade older than Comedy Central's overall average age of 30. The battle for younger audiences, increasingly hard to woo across television, has been made more difficult by Jimmy Fallon's wildly successful transition as the host of NBC's Tonight. During the Jay Leno era, Stewart still handily topped all of late night with adults 18-49 and 18-34 — groups he's since ceded to Fallon. (Stewart remains on top among adults 18-24 and all of the younger male groups.)

Noah also looks more similar to the rest of the Comedy Central roster than anybody else on the late-night circuit. Much of the network's non-talk original programming (Broad City, Workaholics, Inside Amy Schumer) features considerably younger personalities and, likely not coincidentally, skews younger in the ratings. The 33-year-old Schumer was among the names floated for the Daily Show gig, but her burgeoning film career seemed to preemptively derail any hopes for her taking on the job.

That's another area where Noah's youth and relatively low profile is good news for Comedy Central. Changing the guard for late-night franchises can be messy and destabilizing. It's not something network brass likely want to do again anytime soon, especially after losing Colbert to CBS just last year. Noah is a long-term investment.

And, with more than 2 million Twitter followers and a built-in international following, the South African import does not have to start from scratch. It's safe to assume that the Daily Show will also be making greater use of him in the months leading up to Stewart's send-off.

"It's an opportunity to bring new attention to the show, and in a perfect world, gain more viewers," Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday — though she was quick to say that their metrics and expectations are shifting. "The way the world views our content now has changed dramatically.... We don't just look at what our ratings are, [but also] how many people are watching it online, on our sites, on their phones and on our app."

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