Last September, Jimmy Fallon brought Donald Trump onto the Tonight Show, shot the breeze with the then-presidential candidate, and ended the segment by rustling his hair. The seemingly benign moment marked the beginning of the end for the former King of Late Night.
Fallon and the Tonight Show took some friendly jabs at Trump but it was all in good fun. He did his best to play to both sides, careful not to alienate any part of his audience. The Tonight Show played it safe, and for a while, their caution was rewarded.
Meanwhile, over at the Late Show, Stephen Colbert was swinging with both fists. After a few misses early on, the former host of the Colbert Report finally started connecting on his punches. As he started to find his groove at CBS, and as Donald Trump continued to dominate the news, his ratings started to encroach on Fallon’s territory.
By February, Colbert had overtaken Fallon for the first time since taking over the Late Show in 2015. By March, he had established a comfortable lead. Fallon has had his moments since, but overall, Colbert has led the race for late-night supremacy.
Now, he’s leaving Fallon for dead. In the week of August 4th, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert claimed its largest ever lead in total viewers over the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. While Fallon maintains a narrow lead when it comes to the profitable 18-49 age demographic, he’s losing the overall battle — bigly.
To add insult to injury, Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show were snubbed at the Emmys, receiving zero nominations. Stephen Colbert, on the other hand, was tapped to host the event and his show received nominations for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.
The war for late-night television has always been a battle between NBC and CBS. Over at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel continues to do his thing, but Jimmy Kimmel Live! won’t be contesting the top spot anytime soon. The same goes for Conan O’Brien and Trevor Noah, who have very different expectations over at TBS and Comedy Central.
As long as Donald Trump remains at the forefront of the news cycle, Stephen Colbert should lead the late-night ratings. Fallon’s attempts to change his tack and keep up have been largely unsuccessful.
Will NBC choose to stick with Fallon and hope for a return to normalcy, or will they make some more changes in order to adapt to the changing political climate? Will Colbert sweep the Emmys and close the year on top? Here are the odds.
LATE-NIGHT TV ODDS
ODDS ON HIGHEST AVERAGE VIEWERSHIP (2017)
Stephen Colbert: 1/3
Jimmy Fallon: 3/1
ODDS ON HIGHEST AVERAGES RATINGS: 18-49 DEMOGRAPHIC (2017)
Jimmy Fallon: 2/3
Stephen Colbert: 3/2
ODDS STEPHEN COLBERT WINS AT LEAST ONE 2017 EMMY: 1/3
ODDS JIMMY KIMMEL BREAKS INTO THE TOP-TWO IN 2017: 6/1
ODDS TO STILL BE HOSTING CURRENT SHOW BY YEAR END 2018
Stephen Colbert: 1/19
Jimmy Fallon: 1/9