How Trevor Noah, James Corden Shows Have Gotten More International Distribution

James Cordon Trevor Noah Split H 2016
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'The Late Late Show' and 'The Daily Show' air in a growing number of countries, with Noah far exceeding predecessor Jon Stewart's reach, with observers citing the hosts' appeal across continents.

CBS' The Late Late Show With James Corden, which launched in March 2015, and Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, which has aired since last September, have quickly developed a broad reach, and fans, around the world.

Noah's show is currently seen in nearly 170 countries and territories via Comedy Central's growing number of international channels, program sales deals and digital and mobile distribution via the Comedy Central Play app. Sources say that this likely makes it one of the most widely distributed late-night shows right now. In comparison, in its last season hosted by Jon Stewart, the show aired in 76 countries and territories.

Corden, meanwhile, is now licensed in around 150 territories, with CBS this summer unveiling deals with Sky for the U.K., MCM in France and German commercial channel RTL II’s new digital network RTL II You, which offers a combination of linear TV and VOD programming targeting millennials.

The companies don't detail the international distribution or overall revenue for specific shows. But Wall Street analysts say the international success of the late-night shows provides some financial upside but estimate no major earnings boost from it.

Tuna Amobi, analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said that international business is "still a relatively small portion of the profits for both parent companies, CBS and Viacom." Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan took similar note of the success, saying: "It is interesting that international is now becoming more incrementally material to live comedy. Even scripted comedy doesn't always travel well."

Armando Nunez, president and CEO president of CBS Global Distribution Group, tells The Hollywood Reporter that international "is a nice revenue piece" for the overall model of the Corden show. But he also emphasized: "You are still at the end of the day focused on producing a show that is going to resonate and be successful with an American audience."

But TV networks and audiences worldwide have taken note of Corden and Noah. "The Late Late Show has become a global cultural phenomenon, and the U.K. audience has delighted in James’ runaway stateside success, said Gary Davey, managing director, Sky content when his company unveiled the deal for the show. And Nadja Raoufi, senior vp program acquisitions and new channel development at RTL II, said about the German deal that the show “perfectly complements the portfolio on RTL II You and hits the mark among our young target group.”

And Noah has drawn strong reactions at such events as the May launch in Dubai of Comedy Central in the Middle East.

Observers say the fact that Noah is from South Africa and Corden is British alone doesn't necessarily guarantee them viewer interest outside of the U.S., but they argue that both have qualities that have made them hits abroad.

"Among some of the qualities that [Noah] has is that he is very warm, and I think that warmth helps transcend national expectations and helps people feel comfortable that they are with somebody who will make the effort to relate to them," Jill Offman, senior vp of Comedy Central International, tells THR. "He also has a real specificity when he looks at the world and gets the places he is talking about. He really seems to understand what he is talking about."

The Daily Show under Noah has increased its reach outside of the United States by 374 percent from the Jon Stewart days, according to Comedy Central. And its international ratings during the second calendar quarter were up 265 percent from the year-ago period when Stewart was still hosting the show. That was driven by record viewing in South Africa (up 260 percent) and gains in such key markets as the United Kingdom (up 157 percent), Ireland (38 percent) and Denmark (4 percent).  

In addition, the show this year has generated an average of 67 million monthly streams across all digital platforms, up 22 percent from 2015, says Comedy Central.

Global comedy is "not for sissies," says Offman. "It's really hard." But every market that has taken the Daily Show has said it wants to get behind and help further build the Noah franchise.

And so does Comedy Central. "We see Trevor as our global comedy ambassador," Offman says. "He is the first one. Trevor is the perfect face for the brand as it has become much bigger and much more relevant in many more markets."

None of the executives wanted to compare their current talent with past late-night hosts, but when asked about Noah's wider international reach in comparison with Stewart's, Offman said: "We were excited and thrilled to have Jon Stewart, and that prepared the way for Trevor. We have also launched more Comedy Central international channels in recent years. But we have seen that [Noah] has an unusual level of popularity for an American current affairs comedy host in the world."

Meanwhile, Corden has quickly developed a global following with buzz-worthy viral videos. The show’s official YouTube channel has surpassed 1 billion total views and has 138 clips with more than 1 million views each and 6 million subscribers. Especially the show’s “Carpool Karaoke” segments are consistent viral hits, each surpassing 10 million views.

"We knew that there was going to be more interest in him than the average American talk show," Nunez says about Corden. "What we have been able to piggyback off of is his huge online popularity. Especially once "Carpool Karaoke" started taking off, it gave us a platform, which helped us in growing the interest for the more traditional platforms."

But the CBS executive sees a broader set of reasons for Corden's global appeal and a slew of recent licensing deals. "This is not your stereotypical American chat show. First off, obviously, he is a Brit and he didn't come from a world where he was sitting down at a desk and interviewing people," he explains. "He is a very talented actor and performer, and that all reflects in the type of show he has done."

Plus, from a U.S. perspective, and the perspective of other parts of the world, "he also has a rather unique way of doing interviews and has the guests come out at the same time," adds Nunez.

How does that compare to other other or previous late-night shows? "It's not like American chat shows haven't been distributed around the world before," says Nunez. "We have a long history of doing it with Letterman. There are just certain unique aspects of Corden, which have really resonated in the global marketplace."

The host also has been great in making himself available to help the show's success globally. "James has been terrific in terms of marketing and promoting the show in the U.S. and outside, which is very important," Nunez explains. And he lauds the host for working hard to make a name for himself around the world with the show. "Here is a guy who to a certain extent was a relative unknown in the U.S. television market, to get to where he is at this point, it's a great story," says Nunez.