As “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” extends its largest margin of victory among total viewers for a second week in a row, NBC execs said they’re not worried about “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“Tonight Show” continues to lead late night among adults 18-49, the demo preferred by advertisers, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told reporters Thursday at the Television Critics Association press tour.
“I have no concern whatsoever,” he said. “Jimmy is the greatest at what he does. Clearly we’re living in a news cycle that every day tops itself from the day before. A lot of people in late night have jumped on that bandwagon… Jimmy has his own way of doing it. He’s still the undisputed leader in the 18-49 demo.”
Greenblatt noted that “Late Night with Seth Meyers” has found success in mining the Donald Trump news: “Seth Meyers is using the crazy news cycle as his own personal weapon.”
And, of course, “Saturday Night Live” is coming off of its most-watched season in 23 years, thanks to its take on the Trump administration. The show averaged 11 million viewers last season, up 36 percent from the year before.
Nonetheless, the balance in late night – which until a year ago was completely weighted in Fallon’s favor, as “Tonight Show” seemed unstoppable – has become more competitive in this new age. Last week, “The Late Show” averaged 2.96 million viewers, vs. 2.36 million for “The Tonight Show.” That margin of 600,000 viewers was the largest advantage “The Late Show” has had over Fallon since Colbert took over in September 2015.
Because the ratings growth for shows like “The Late Show” and “The Daily Show” were influenced by the insanity coming out of Washington, Greenblatt said he expected the numbers to shift again if the news cycle finally calms down.
“Once things even themselves out a little bit, you’ll see those total household ratings go back up,” Greenblatt said. “He’s his own unique personality. All these late night talents approach the news cycle in their own way.”