There’s good news and bad news where it concerns the ratings of The Late Show, now in its third month since Stephen Colbert took over the host seat. The good news is that Colbert’s ratings are nearly double what they were under Letterman in the 18-34 demographic, and his streaming numbers are a whopping 2,000 percent higher than they were under Dave. He’s clearly connecting to a younger, more Internet savvy audience than Dave managed in his final year.
On the flip side, overall ratings for Colbert are beginning to slip, so much so that he’s now beginning to fall behind Jimmy Kimmel and into third place. Part of this has to do with the fact that Kimmel aired a week of shows from Brooklyn and had a highly-rated episode with Hillary Clinton. However, Colbert’s ratings have been trending downwards since he took over, and there’s another reason for it, one that some conservative pundits predicted when Colbert was named David Letterman’s successor: He’s alienating Republicans.
According to a survey of 1,000 late-night viewers aged 18-65 conducted by The Hollywood Reporter, Colbert is not faring well with Republicans. Colbert had not hidden his liberal bias, he’s booking more political guests, and he’s taking a more considered, thoughtful and substantive approach to interviews with politicians. That’s not sitting well with many Republican viewers, who prefer Jimmy Fallon’s apolitical approach.
The survey results reveal a wide disparity between Democrat and Republican viewers on Colbert. Forty-seven percent of Colbert viewers identify as Democrat, while only 17 percent identify as Republican, a whopping 30-point gap. For comparison’s sake, Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show — the ratings leader — is far more evenly split between Democrats (36 percent) and Republicans (31 percent), as is Kimmel (34 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican). What’s even more surprising to me considering how outspoken Colbert is about his Catholic faith is that both Fallon and Kimmel lead Colbert among Catholic viewers (29 to 28 to 18 percent, respectively).
CBS, of course, likely anticipated this result when they hired the host of the progressive The Colbert Report, but given the fact that Colbert is still well ahead of where Letterman was with younger viewers, they’re probably just fine with where Colbert stands, especially now that he has actually managed to move the dial among streaming viewers, where Letterman had very little success. Moreover, when it comes to pitching to advertisers, Colbert can also boast that his viewers are also trending wealthier and more educated than viewers of Fallon and Kimmel.