"During his nearly four years in office, President Trump has influenced the country in innumerable political, economic and social ways," says Steven Zeitchik. "His effect also has been deep in the realm of late-night television. Trump’s presence in the White House supercharged the popularity of some hosts (such as Stephen Colbert), marginalized others (including rival Jimmy Fallon) and gave rise to an entirely new class of voices. But with Joe Biden now the president-elect, that age will come to an end, leading to new and largely unknown terrain." Zeitchik spoke with nine veterans of late-night, anonymously and on the record, to ascertain how late-night will shape up in the post-Trump era. “I see a lot changing,” said Daniel Kellison, a former Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman executive producer. “Many people have turned to late night as a relief from stressful news, and the question is whether they will still do that if the news is less stressful.” As Zeitchik notes, Colbert's Late Show, which debuted two months after Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, struggled early on. "Then Trump ascended, and everything changed," he says. Zeitchik adds: "Colbert now draws an average of 2.95 million viewers within the first three days of each episode’s airing, according to Nielsen, nearly twice as many as Fallon’s 1.5 million and also well ahead of Kimmel’s 1.7 million. The numbers reversed years of NBC trouncing CBS, dating to the epic battles between NBC’s Jay Leno and CBS’s Letterman in the 1990s, routinely won by Leno. Late-night TV in the modern era has remained key to the networks’ finances, especially because Colbert and Fallon began their 11:30 rivalry in the mid-2010s and advertising for the first time rocketed past half a billion dollars annually. The battle is not the same as the Leno-Letterman days, with far smaller overall viewership numbers. Still, digital impressions have gained in importance, and Colbert’s ability to routinely grab millions of YouTube views with his anti-Trump bits strongly appeals to Madison Avenue, especially compared with Fallon. But experts say the comeback could be reversed as late night settles into a more Barack Obama-like dynamic, in which the jokes about the president are less barbed or skipped entirely, favoring Fallon."
TOPICS: Stephen Colbert, ABC, CBS, NBC, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Daniel Kellison, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Biden Presidency, Late Night, Trump Presidency