Late Night's New Pecking Order: Colbert Holds His Own, Comedy Central Takes a Hit

'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert'
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Jimmy Fallon leads the ratings race as Conan O'Brien slips into Andy Cohen/Chris Hardwick territory.

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

Stephen Colbert's Late Show may have settled in as the clear No. 2 to NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, but there's no doubt that CBS' new late-night host has revived his 11:35 p.m. time slot.

Two months in, Colbert's ratings are still up 50 percent from where David Letterman was at the same time last season among adults 18-49 — and pulling double in the network's more elusive demographic of adults 18-34. Those stats, combined with a big jump in the target demo for 12:35 a.m. companion James Corden over Craig Ferguson, were enough for CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves to say he's "extremely pleased" with late-night ratings during a Nov. 3 earnings call.

"I don't think anyone expected him to compete with Jimmy Fallon," says media analyst Brad Adgate. "He's found a niche, and CBS has got to be very happy that."

Colbert remains a distant second place to Fallon. And, thanks to several strong weeks from ABC competition Jimmy Kimmel, he's pacing closer to the perennial No. 3 — but the new Late Show is still skewing considerably younger (and more digital) than during Letterman's tenure.

"[Colbert] also has a much higher second-screen presence than Letterman did," notes Adgate of the host, who's seen a whopping 2,230 percent rise in streaming. "That's where a lot of the younger viewers — and a great promise for monetization — are going to be in the months and years ahead."


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