If you’re the sort who makes his living swimming in the social-media sea like I do, one form of sport these days is the online battles between big shows to grab fan mindshare and loyalty from each other — particularly as the networks slowly begin to understand that this stuff can make a difference. And nowhere are those battles more starkly direct and entertaining than in late-night, where each talk show has a big team of social-media specialists culling potentially viral bits from the day’s program and sprinkling them across the web. The battle has become particularly stout between Jimmy Fallon‘s online team at The Tonight Show and the Jimmy Kimmel Live crew.
Both shows have had big lead-ins recently (the Winter Olympics in Fallon’s first days; ABC’s Oscars on March 2, when Kimmel went live on the East Coast right after the awards show ended). But the crucial bit is not the audience you’re bequeathed, but the one you build. According to data from RelishMIX, which tracks fan engagement for TV shows and movies across, particularly, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, no one’s building better right now than Fallon. Overall, from March 3-March 10, Fallon’s YouTube videos were watched nearly four times as often as Kimmel’s, 27.5 million to 7.6 million. That’s a margin. Right now, Kimmel still leads Fallon in total YouTube subscribers, about 3 million to less than 2.7 million. Then again, Kimmel’s been at it for a while; Fallon took over the Tonight Show social media outlets barely a month ago.
Right now, it must be a little worrisome for the Kimmel crew. Even with some stunt booking and the debut of Ameowadeus, a spoof trailer of Amadeus featuring Kevin Spacey and several other big-name actors, Kimmel was trailing far behind Fallon this past week. And RelishMix CEO Marc Karzen says that’s not even the most important thing. “While YouTube views is one story, the bigger story is late-night brand loyalty,” he said. “Look at the subscriber spike! Fallon is kicking Kimmel’s ass.”
Now, it’s possible that doing a spoof of a 30-year-old movie, with a name no one can spell, might have hurt the online prospects of Ameowadeus. After all, most of the heaviest YouTube users weren’t even born when that movie came out. Regardless, as of this afternoon, it had logged less than 360,000 views for a comedy bit that featured more Oscar nominees and winners than Harvey Weinstein’s last awards-season brunch. That means only about an eighth of Kimmel’s YouTube subscribers, who automatically had the video delivered to them on the site, have bothered to watch.
And as Karzen points out, the bigger picture may indeed be who’s winning not with a given week’s video views, but in building long-term brand loyalty to their show. Here again, Fallon, without benefit of the Olympics or Oscars, and saddled with the less-than-scintillating NBC primetime lineup, won the week’s race for new YouTube subscribers, again by a margin of nearly 4 to 1. Ouch. Time to cowboy up, Kimmel crew.