CBS Late Show host already had claimed its first demo lead over NBC’s Tonight Show star back when season stats through November 11, 2018 showed up. At that time, Colbert averaged 659K viewers in the 18-49 age bracket and Fallon had 657K. (Their demo ratings stood at a dead heat: 0.51 to 0.51).
When Nielsen adjusted those numbers, however, Colbert lost his edge.
Now, Colbert has once again pulled ahead in the key 18-49 age bracket. And, this time, it looks as if his lead will not get adjusted out of existence, being substantial enough – 693K demo viewers to Fallon’s 686K – to be visible in rating points rounding to a hundredth advantage: 0.54 for Late Show to 0.53 for Tonight Show.
That said, Colbert’s advantage is a slight apples-to-orange one. Here is why.
With Colbert airing repeats last week, which are excluded from Late Show’s “most current” season average, his “most current” rating now include just one week of Live + Same Day.
Meanwhile, Fallon’s Tonight Show average is weighed down by two weeks of Live + Same Day. That translates to a slight boost to Colbert’s numbers at a time when the two programs are extremely close in the demo.
One week from now, when updated averages are in , each show will have one week of repeats excluded.
Colbert’s lead is likely to shrink.
Question is, by how much.
But there’s no denying Colbert, the clear late-night frontrunner in overall audience, is
overtaking Fallon’s demo game. And, with the 2020 election – Colbert’s sweet spot – just getting going.
Fallon, meanwhile, is trying to figure out this new late-night landscape. Last October, Tonight Show brought on board
former Today EP Jim Bell as show runner – taking a page from CBS, which moved Chris Licht from its morning news program, CBS This Morning to Late Show, as Comedy Central late-night star Colbert was trying to figure out his new environment.
Bell, who more recently was President, NBC Olympics Production & Programming, has moved quickly, producing an ambitious anniversary tribute to The Larry Sanders Show, and a road trip to Puerto Rico. Licht, however, has a more than two year head-start on Bell, having started in spring of ’16.