In all today’s news about The Colbert Report host taking over as host of Late Show sits one question David Letterman never really tried to answer: How will Stephen Colbert use social media to lock in a young, eagerly sought TV audience that isn’t much interested in mainstream entertainment?
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The social-media crews behind late-night competitors Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have been flooding online audiences with viral YouTube videos and nifty posts on Twitter and Facebook, each trying to grab audience attention that will translate to TV ratings. Now, the team behind The Colbert Report, itself a social-media power, will attempt to transition its audience to broadcast TV and Late Show. Deadline reached out to our pals at RelishMIX, who analyze social-media engagement for TV shows and films, for a quick look at who’s doing what right now on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The verdict? Colbert is already in good shape on Facebook and Twitter, if he can transition his fan base, but he has a lot of work to do on YouTube, where The Jimmys rule by a massive margin. “With the Fallon/Kimmel battle on YouTube, we’ll see how Colbert builds his team to compete,” said RelishMIX CEO Marc Karzen. “Is CBS betting that Colbert’s 13 million [social media] fans will move over with him? Stay tuned.”
Here are the breakdowns by platform of followers for all the late-night contenders, according to RelishMIX. Remember that RelishMIX measures not just the official feeds from each show but also those of each show’s stars and other principals and, importantly, the “superfans” on each platform who are not directly connected to the show but are busily sharing and posting in support of the core brand. It’s designed to capture all the social-media connections being made around a show, not just the official stuff.
Colbert’s show is fourth overall here, even after ceremonially (and quite amusingly) blowing up his @ColbertReport Twitter feed last week. The stunt was a clever bit of social-media jujitsu, done live in the presence of a Twitter executive after some activists perceived a tweet from the show to be racially insensitive. Colbert will need to be even lighter on his feet with Twitter under the glare of broadcast TV attention. As it is, though, Colbert already is leading Kimmel’s show by 2 million followers, or a whopping 42 percent.
Colbert has been relatively strongest on this platform, third among all late-night shows. Facebook has a broader, and therefore older, audience — a promising position for a move from basic cable to the broader, older audience that CBS commands.
Colbert’s crew has a lo-o-ong way to go here to catch up with The Jimmys, who are, to put it gently, kicking butt.