'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Taps 'CBS This Morning' Vet as Showrunner

Chris Licht has come on board as an executive producer, with co-executive producer Ryan Kadro set as his replacement at the morning program..
Francis Specker/CBS

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert is making a change.

CBS This Morning veteran executive producer Chris Licht has been tapped to serve as showrunner on the late-night series, CBS announced Wednesday.

In his new role, Licht will oversee all aspects of production on the show, which launched in September. The show's current lineup of executive producers, which includes Colbert as well as Jon Stewart, Tom Purcell and Meredith Bennett, will remain on board.

“I'm thrilled Chris is joining us at The Late Show. I am so impressed by what he has done at CBS This Morning,” Stephen Colbert said in a statement. “And I trust someone has told him he doesn't have to get up at 4 a.m. anymore.”

Despite his impressive following and critical praise stemming from his tenure at The Daily Show and then as host and executive producer of his own Comedy Central series, The Colbert Report, Colbert has struggled at CBS. Although the network has been quick to note that ratings are up in comparison to Colbert's predecessor, David Letterman, the online outreach — an increasingly important part of the late-night conversation — has paled dramatically in comparison to his competition on NBC's Jimmy Fallon-hosted Tonight Show, as well as his fellow CBS late-night host, James Corden, who has found massive success online with his "Carpool Karaoke" clips.

So far this season, Colbert has averaged 2.94 million viewers and a .07 rating among adults 18-49 — second to Fallon's 3.81 million viewers and 1.06 demo rating.

Colbert, who brought many of his writers from The Colbert Report over to The Late Show, has gone in a markedly different direction than his late-night rivals, bringing on a more varied mix of guests like Elon Musk and Tim Cook in addition to the regular mix of movie, music and TV stars.

With Colbert’s demonstrated interest in current events and politics, Late Show would seem to be an organic fit for Licht. An imaginative executive with demonstrated news chops, Licht came to CBS News in 2011 from MSNBC, where he built Morning Joe into a signature franchise at the cable network. At CBS News, he similarly established CBS This Morning as a stalwart for the news division, which for years struggled to compete with Today and Good Morning America. With co-hosts Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, who joined the CTM table in 2012, the show has become a go-to for news makers. And though CTM still lags behind its broadcast competition, the show has added about 1 million viewers during Licht’s tenure for the network’s largest audience in the time period in 23 years.

But Licht also had recently begun to look for opportunities beyond CTM and shifting him to Late Show was a way to keep a valued creative executive at the network. In his new role, Licht also becomes executive vp special programming, CBS Corporation, which will include consulting on various forms of content for divisions across CBS. At the same time, CBS News announced that CTM senior producer Ryan Kadro, who has been with the show since its inception in 2011, has been elevated to executive producer replacing Licht. On Twitter, CBS News president David Rhodes described the appointment of Licht to Late Show and the elevation of Kadro at CTM as a "win-win."

“In a very short time, Stephen’s comedic talents and interview skills have formed an exciting new franchise for CBS in late night,” said CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller. “Chris’s vision and track record of leading signature shows in important dayparts is a great next step to build on this terrific foundation.”

Added CBS Television Studios president David Stapf: “Everyone in the company has admired what Chris has done for CBS in the morning. The opportunity to bring him to The Late Show is like adding an outstanding head coach to a great team.”

“You can’t work in this business without being in awe of Stephen Colbert and his talents,” Licht said. “The chance to work with Stephen and help build a valuable late night franchise, while continuing to grow at CBS, is truly an honor. I can’t wait to get started.”

“At the same time, it’s a bittersweet moment,” continued Licht. “Our CBS News team has built something very unique in the morning that continues to grow in stature and ratings. I will miss working with them all, but I leave with incredible pride for what we accomplished together, and I can’t wait to see where Ryan takes the show as it moves onward and upward to the next level of success.” 

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m., is dark this week.