Stephen Colbert Gets Post-Super Bowl Slot on CBS

Stephen Colbert's Pope Francis-Themed 'Late Show' - H 2015

CBS' long play to make Stephen Colbert the dominant voice in late night will continue well into the 2015-16 season. The network just handed its new Late Show host the best time slot of the TV year.

The network announced Wednesday that a special live episode of The Late Show will air after its Feb. 7 telecast of Super Bowl 50. That bucks the trend of primetime programming that typically gets the lead-in from the rotating game. Scripted series, most recently NBC's The Blacklist, tend to get the spot — or, less often, reality shows such as The Voice or Undercover Boss.

CBS is also pushing James Corden. Right around the Late Late Show host's one-year anniversary, he'll air an episode of his own after the local news that night. It's the first time that a network has ever given late night the Super Bowl showcase.

"It’s been a very big year in late night at CBS," said Glenn Geller, president of CBS entertainment. "We’re extremely proud of our two new late night franchises, and we’re thrilled to give Stephen and James this big Super Bowl Sunday showcase."

Colbert, who has seen ratings settle since his September kick off, is still posting gains across the board from where predecessor David Letterman was last season. He's up 60 percent among adults 18-49 for the season. Corden, in turn, is also on the up. His showing in the key demo is up 33 percent. 

The ratings payout for airing after the Super Bowl is always substantial — and CBS has historically had the best luck. Survivor (45 million viewers in 2001) and Undercover Boss (38 million in 2010) rank as the two best performers of this century.

Nothing, however, compares to NBC's 1996 one-hour episode of Friends. "The One After the Super Bowl" averaged an astonishing 52.9 million viewers.