EXCLUSIVE: Meredith Bennett has left her position as one of the executive producers of Late Show With Stephen Colbert, sources report. Bennett oversaw business and production functions on the CBS late-night show; she was part of the team that moved with Colbert from Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, on which she was co-EP.
The news follows by less than two months CBS’ announcement that its morning-news hot shot Chris Licht would become showrunner for Colbert’s topical late-night comedy show. Licht assumed most of Bennett’s duties in his capacity as showrunner, according to informed sources. Bennett’s position was eliminated around Memorial Day weekend, explained one.
The hiring of Licht had been the result of conversations about the need for a showrunner – conversations between CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and Colbert, and also between Colbert and CBS Entertainment chief Glenn Gellar, that started around the time of Colbert’s post-Super Bowl broadcast. Colbert and his team formerly put out a half-hour show, four days a week for Comedy Central, while Late Show is a five-day-a-week, hourlong program.
“Once the rubber hits the road on a daily basis, they need a showrunner … who can provide the operational system that supports Stephen,” one industry source told Deadline at the time.
Licht, the ambitious, highly regarded news exec who had spent the past several years overhauling CBS News’ morning show, and was itching to find his next move, is considered to be very skilled operationally, and knows how to produce a daily show, “which is exhausting,” one industry watcher said back then. Bringing in Licht to partner with Colbert would provide a “much better support structure around him,” that source said at the time.
When the announcement was made, CBS said Licht would oversee all aspects of production for The Late Show and the hire would not impact Tom Purcell, Colbert’s head of creative, or Bennett. Both were listed as EPs on the show, as are Colbert and Jon Stewart.
Season to date, NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is No. 1 with 3.7M viewers, to Colbert’s 2.8M, and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live at 2.3M. In the demo, Fallon leads with a 1.0 rating, followed by Colbert’s 0.6 and Kimmel’s 0.5.
But, around the time of the Licht announcement, Colbert was getting ratings results more in line with what his predecessor David Letterman had done a year ago. Averages for the first quarter of this year showed Colbert still up substantially, year to year, compared with Letterman in the demo, but by a lot less than in his full season-to-date comparisons. And the total viewers average was slipping into Letterman territory in the first quarter.