The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore is coming to an end after a year and a half on the air. The late-night show, created and executive produced by Jon Stewart and hosted by Wilmore, has been canceled by Comedy Central. Wilmore just broke the news to his staff. The program will do one more week, with its final show airing Thursday. After that, @midnight will move temporarily to The Nightly Show‘s 11:30 PM slot (without changing its title) while Comedy Central looks for replacement.
The cancellation comes less than two months before the November presidential elections, a fact Wilmore pointed out in his reaction to the decision.
“I’m really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity, but I’m also saddened and surprised we won’t be covering this crazy election, or ‘The Unblackening’ as we’ve coined it,” Wilmore said. “And keeping it 100, I guess I hadn’t counted on ‘The Unblackening’ happening to my time slot as well.”
The timing of the decision was triggered by pending new one-year renewals of the deals for Wilmore and 15 or so creative contributors in front and behind the camera, Comedy Central president Kent Alterman said. But it was something that had been brewing at the network for awhile.
Alterman praised Wilmore and his team for having “evolved the show.”
“They really have been doing great work in terms of creating a stable of contributors who fill the show with comedy bits and takes on what’s going on — all driven by Larry’s very strong and unique point of view,” Alterman said. “But unfortunately, it hasn’t been resonating with our audience; it’s been struggling for quite a while as far as connecting with our audience. We stuck with it for a year and a half but ultimately we didn’t feel that we see enough traction to justify doing another year.”
Still, couldn’t the politically-focused Nightly Show have stayed on until the Presidential election?
“Ideally we would do that but because these renewals were all coming up before the election, (it made it hard),” Alterman said. “The other thing we didn’t want to do is create a slow death through the election, it didn’t really make sense. Unfortunately, it is what it is; it was a business decision.”
Alterman said that The Nightly Show has not showed any ratings growth, staying relatively flat throughout its run, which began in January 2015 to largely positive reviews. The Nightly Show‘s largest live audience was during its first two weeks on the air, 885,000. With The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a lead-in, The Nightly Show averaged between 600,000-800,000 live viewers; following the lower-rated Daily Show with Trevor Noah, its average was 400,000-550,00o.
Alterman noted that the network had hoped for a boost from Wilmore’s hosting of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the show’s coverage the two political conventions. “But we were not getting any traction, not only in terms of linear ratings but also videos being shared or the show being engaged with on social platforms.”
One of Wilmore’s most viral moments was his attack on Bill Cosby following the disgraced comedian’s arrest early this year.
Stewart recently popped up on another late-night show with a bumpy early going that he is executive producing, CBS’ Late Show, whose new host Stephen Colbert Wilmore succeeded at Comedy Central.
While Stewart has been involved in The Nightly Show, “it wasn’t up to us, it wasn’t up to Jon, it was really up to the audience, and for whatever reason they just weren’t connecting with it,” Alterman said.
Comedy Central brassnow are focusing on finding a permanent replacement for The Nightly Show in the 11:30 PM slot.
“Now that we have clarity that we have an open slot, we open our doors to very active and aggressive late-night development,” Alterman said. “We will begin to engage with the creative and comedy community; we are very open to what may come through and what we can develop.”
Before he got The Nightly Show, Wilmore was Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There is no immediate plan for him or any of The Nightly Show contributors to transition to The Daily Show or have any other role on the network.
“We are taking it one step at a time so at this point all that has been determined is that we are not continuing with The Nightly Show. Everything else we will deal with as it comes,” Alterman said.
Wilmore, a comedian and seasoned writer-producer, likely will be in demand. He had to leave two comedy series for The Nightly Show gig — the Emmy-nominated Black-ish, on which he was the original executive producer/showrunner, and HBO’s Insecure, which he co-created with Issa Rae. He remains a consultant on the latter and could presumably assume a larger role should the show go to a second season.
While Comedy Central is making a change at 11:30 PM, the network is pleased with the performance of its lead-in, The Daily Show with new host Trevor Noah.
“The Daily Show is an institution that is enduring, and we are very happy with how Trevor is doing,” Alterman said. “We always knew going in that it would take time for him to evolve and for the show to evolve around him. And we really feel that it is starting to gel. The couple of weeks before the conventions we felt that he hit a new plateau of taking ownership and control of the show — both in terms of process and what he was doing on camera — and we felt he was starting to have a much more confident, strong point of view and take on things and that was really coming through. Then during the two weeks of the conventions, we feel he hit whole new levels of both creative gusto that he had and everything that they were doing on The Daily Show that is really smart funny and unique, and we got an incredible resonance from the audience. We are heartened by where Trevor is evolving to.”
While The Daily Show is down year-to-year in total linear viewers and adults 18-49, Comedy Central is encouraged by the rise of The Daily Show‘s multiplatform views (full episodes and video views) since Noah began. They are up 22% vs. Stewart’s final season. It is also the highest-rated late-night show on TV among adults 18-24 and second behind The Tonight Show in 18-34. According to reports, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah was the second-most-watched show on Hulu in July.
Online, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah has nearly 90 videos with 1M-plus views on Facebook, and more than 40 videos with more than 1MM views on YouTube during its inaugural season.