Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” has overtaken Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” in the ratings for the first time since Colbert took over from David Letterman in September, 2015. But it’s by the slimmest of margins. Last week, Colbert brought in a weekly average of 2.77 million viewers to CBS, while Fallon came in just short with 2.75 million for NBC.
Still, this is a huge moment for Colbert, who has struggled to compete with Fallon since taking over. The most likely explanation for Colbert’s recent success is, of course, Donald Trump. From the Super Bowl to the Golden Globes to the American Music Awards, it seems Donald Trump always ends up being part of the story.
It’s no secret Jimmy Fallon is extremely apolitical, making jokes at the expense of politicians but never taking sides. Colbert, on the other hand, has a history of being upfront about his political beliefs and is becoming increasingly vocal about it. He’s not afraid to lampoon Trump and skewer those connected to him.
Fallon has created a show that anyone, regardless of their political opinion, can enjoy. It’s a broad tent but because of that, it lacks bite. Colbert has effectively written off half of the country, but he’s speaking directly to the other half. In the past, Fallon’s approach had been far more successful. But with the rise of Trump, it seems the late night crowd is connecting more with Colbert – at least for now.
Time will tell whether the lead will hold. Colbert has merely won his first battle in the Late Night War. It’s possible the American public will finally reach Trump Overload, and retreat to Late Night for some heartwarming, apolitical fun. If this happens, Fallon will be back in charge. But if the public continues to crave political commentary and biting satire from their Late Night hosts, then Colbert is the new king.
When it comes to the 18-49 age group, Fallon still has the lead. That’s good news for Fallon and even better news for NBC, who continue to hold the attention of the most coveted demographic in advertising.
Where do the hosts go from here and who will win the 2017 ratings war? Here are the odds!
2017 Late Night Television Prop Odds:
Odds to hold the highest average ratings by year-end:
Jimmy Fallon: 6/19
Stephen Colbert: 19/6
O/U on average rating in 2017:
Jimmy Fallon: 3.8
Stephen Colbert: 3.4
Odds to have Trump on as a guest by year-end:
Jimmy Fallon: 7/3
Stephen Colbert: 99/1
Odds to be attacked by Trump on Twitter by year-end:
Stephen Colbert: 11/9
Jimmy Fallon: 99/1
Odds to still be host by year-end:
Jimmy Fallon: 3/97
Stephen Colbert: 3/17
Photo credit: “The Colbert Report” by Peabody Awards, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.