The Daily Show host Trevor Noah recently announced his departure from Comedy Central’s flagship comedy news show. For 25 years, The Daily Show has been a staple of late-night television, elevating its hosts and correspondents such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver, to prominence. No timetable or replacement has been set for the The Daily Show’s transition.
The move is the latest shift in the late-night television landscape. James Corden is set to leave CBS’s The Late Late Show With James Corden at the conclusion of the current season in 2023. Warner Bros. Discovery has cut ties with host Samantha Bee (yet another The Daily Show alum) and her TBS show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, roughly a year after TBS also ended the late-night talk show hosted by Conan O’Brien. The current late night king comes from an unexpected network: Fox News Channel’s Gutfeld! is the most watched show in late night television. It has a similar formula as The Daily Show, skewering current events with monologues and skits, but where The Daily Show comes at things from a more liberal viewpoint, Gutfeld! adopts its parent network’s more conservative viewpoint.
Interpret’s VideoWatch data shows that viewership of nightly late night talk shows has dropped sharply in 2022. While it did rebound some in the latest quarter, it is still below its viewership from the same period a year ago. This could be bad news for Comedy Central, for which the nightly talk show format has been a mainstay through the years. Among Comedy Central viewers, 38% watch late-night talk shows compared to just 16% of all television viewers.
It’s a transformational period for late-night talk shows. With the introduction of DVR, on-demand video, and digital streaming, viewing habits have moved more towards convenience viewing than appointment television. Social media has shifted how and when viewers watch late-night content, allowing them to view the best bits the next day – anecdotally, Interpret has seen many people viewing late-night segments via YouTube. Premium networks and streaming channels have also taken to the format, such as HBO’s Last Week Tonight (hosted by Oliver) or Apple TV’s The Problem With Jon Stewart but have shifted it from nightly episodes to once a week viewing.
The decisions Comedy Central makes on how to adapt The Daily Show after Noah’s departure could be critical to the network’s success given the importance of its flagship show. CBS faces a similar dilemma in replacing Corden, and is reportedly considering several different show formats, including a panel of hosts rather than a single host as they seek to fill the time slot and keep production costs down.