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Whatever you think the election of Donald Trump has meant for global politics, the new U.S. president has proved a ratings dream for international news satires.
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Full Frontal With Samantha Bee are all basking in a Trump bump, with Colbert’s ratings up 23 percent year-on-year, Full Frontal nearly doubling its audience to record highs (2.5 million-plus viewers per night) and Noah recording his best-ever numbers in February of this year, with an average total audience of 1.5 million and digital viewing up 42 percent.
“When we launched last year I was a little worried the market was a bit too saturated [with news satire shows],” says Full Frontal executive producer Miles Kahn. “But there seems to be a hunger out there to talk about what is happening right now. We can’t seem to help ourselves.”
Trump has also been the engine behind a ratings renaissance at Saturday Night Live, which is enjoying its most watched season in 24 years, thanks to the political bite of skits featuring Alec Baldwin as Trump and Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Viewership at SNL is up 26 percent with an average of 11 million fans watching weekly, success that has prompted NBC to add a summer primetime spin-off of SNL‘s “Weekend Update” segment.
It’s a similar story globally. In the English-speaking world, news lampooning is booming business, with shows like HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver hitting ratings highs in Canada and the U.K.. Full Frontal, which eOne is introducing to international buyers at MIPTV this year, is looking to tap into this growing market for current affairs satire.
ITV, Britain’s leading commercial broadcaster, has moved to capitalize on the trend with The Nightly Show, the U.K.’s first daily news satire program that premiered in February. Reviews have been mixed, but ratings have been solid, up 27 percent year-over-year for 10 p.m.
In Germany, Die Heute Show, a weekly Daily Show-style satire on public broadcaster ZDF, features, and skewers, the U.S. political arena and has seen ratings soar to record levels (4.4 million-plus) and a 17 percent audience share. France has had similar success with Touche Pas Mon Poste (It’s Only TV), a daily show that mixes political with general media satire and is enjoying record ratings, averaging 1.5 million a night.
“As a producer, like my colleges all over the world, I’m happy to have Trump,” said Heute Show producer Georg Hirschberg in an interview with German trade magazine Quoten Meter, “As a politically active citizen, though, the laughs often catch in my throat.”
Israel was an early adopter of the news satire business. Keshet Broadcasting’s It’s a Wonderful Country — a Daily Show-meets-SNL-style weekly program — has been a ratings hit since its bow in 2003 and regularly draws 40 percent of the national viewing audience.
“In the U.S., real drama and conflict have entered politics, so it’s not boring anymore,” says Keshet CEO Avi Nir. “In Israel, politics has been, shall we say, interesting for decades.”
A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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