SXSW: Late-Night Hosts Go Head to Head in Austin
Three weeks into the new late-night landscape, several players are hoping to receive a South by Southwest boost. As the late-night competition among the broadcast and cable networks increases, hosts such as ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and Bravo's Andy Cohen are banking on a week of originals tied to the annual Austin-based music, film and tech meet-up for some added leverage.
For Kimmel, the trip to SXSW marks Jimmy Kimmel Live!'s first go at the Texas festival, while Cohen returns for his second year with Watch What Happens Live. It's a regular occurrence for late-night talk shows to travel for special residencies in different parts of the country, often tied to high-profile events such as the Super Bowl, or even abroad, as Conan O'Brien and Craig Ferguson have done in years past.
But late night's increased presence at SXSW marks a concerted effort to appeal to the male-leaning, advertiser-coveted under-50 crowd; 82 percent of 2013 SXSW attendees were under 45, according to the festival. Late Night perhaps has the biggest presence in Austin -- if Kimmel and Cohen's on-location productions are excluded -- sponsoring SXSW's bike-share and the SXSW Comedy opening-day party and with newly minted host Seth Meyers taking part on a Saturday panel. Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson used SXSW as a platform to unveil a new project, while TBS' Pete Holmes of the O'Brien-produced The Pete Holmes Show is set to go before the crowd early Monday evening.
Kimmel -- coming off several weeks' worth of high-profile pranks (Sochi wolf) and interview coups (disgraced Toronto mayor Rob Ford) -- starts his weeklong stay Monday at downtown Austin's Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts, with a targeted guest list that includes Texas governor Rick Perry and Willie Nelson. Cohen, meanwhile, calls the Ballet Austin Academy the show's clubhouse headquarters, with Australian group Betty Who serving as the house band. (Kimmel was a guest on Sunday's broadcast.) Interestingly, the pair have at least one guest in common: Seth Rogen, whose R-rated Universal comedy Neighbors debuted March 8.
"We feel like the festival is a perfect fit for Watch What Happens Live," Cohen told The Hollywood Reporter late last week, saying the Bravo talker is "the only live interactive show in late night." (Viewers tweet in questions, which may be answered that evening by the guests.) "The festival is all about interactivity and it attracts a really diverse mix of people. That's a bullseye of what Watch What Happens is all about."
And in just a few weeks, O'Brien brings his TBS talker Conan to Dallas for a week, starting March 31 and leading up to the NCAA basketball national championship.