For Stephen Colbert, the late-night honeymoon appears to be over . . . according to a Hollywood Reporter poll just released, Colbert has successfully alienated self-described Republicans who see what’s being offered on a nightly basis and exploring or staying with other options. And with the country as polarized as it is, the host is thereby saying goodbye to half his potential audience, which can’t be a sound business model.
Per The Hollywood Reporter‘s survey of 1000 late-night viewers aged 18-65, only 17 percent of those identified themselves as Republican watch Colbert, while attracting 47 percent of those who identify as Democrats, a 30-point gap. But more liberals watch late-night TV than stuffy, old conservatives, right? Guess again. In Kimmel’s case, the split is 34 percent Democrats, 33 percent Republicans. In Fallon’s case, it’s 36-31 Democrats.
Colbert’s ratings decline has been dramatic:
Over the first six weeks since launching, Colbert beat Kimmel by an impressive 40 percent in the demo. But the week of October 19-23 saw Kimmel win the week over Colbert during his now-annual trek to Brooklyn, pushing the CBS host down to third place. The following week, Colbert beat Kimmel, but only by seven percent (“only” because the margin was once 40 percent a few weeks ago). And in the first week on November (2nd-6th), Kimmel won again over Colbert, besting him by 5% in both adults in the key 18-49 rating (0.60 vs. 0.57) and total viewers (2.626 million vs. 2.492 million). That’s a 45-point swing… a disturbing trend for CBS that won’t likely suddenly change now that the Late Show has settled in.
Because I can’t help myself — and because these comics still reach millions (including journalists) who actually take their perspective very seriously indeed — I occasionally confront some of their sillier arguments. Invariably, however, confrontation leads to conversations like this:
Liberal: Did you see this Colbert clip? He just wrecked the GOP. Talk about a mic drop!
Conservative: Actually, he’s completely wrong on the facts, and that destroys his whole premise.
Liberal: Seriously? You’re arguing with me over comedy? Lighten up!
There is, however, a shorter, less frustrating, and ultimately more effective method of dealing with Colbert — changing the channel. He’ll cling to his core audience, but he won’t change the culture.