CBS certainly is not panicking at this point, but David Letterman’s replacement, Stephen Colbert, has already lost half of his audience since his debut, and now runs behind ratings leader, Jimmy Fallon, every recent night. CBS and Colbert no doubt view this as a marathon rather than a real ratings finish race, but the trend is clear, that Jimmy Fallon is not only out in front, but is actually drawing some of his best ratings in the last few months as viewers return from Summer vacations and stay in more and watch more TV.
CBS has little alternative than to count on Colbert to finish well in the long run, however the trend is much like that of Conan O’Brien who quickly lost half of THE TONIGHT SHOW audience, and helped to trigger a panic over at NBC that made Conan feel pressured to leave. And, in another bad career move, Conan quit his NBC show only to get caught in low ratings hell over at TBS with far less than a million average viewers even on a good night.
Stephen Colbert is certainly talented, and at times very funny. But, his new show has much less charm than did David Letterman’s show, and seems an uneven mix of trying to stand in Letterman’s shoes at one moment with goofy laughs, and as Charlie Rose doing a serious interview the next, which doesn’t always seem to work well. It’s not nearly as seamless, or more funny, then some more serious moments as some other late night hosts are able to manage, such as Jimmy Fallon.
Another problem for Colbert is that he is not David Letterman. Other than both wearing glasses and having some goofy comedy moments, the two don’t really appeal to the same audience. Colbert also benefitted for years of standing in the shadows of Jon Steward’s DAILY SHOW, where many viewers just stayed tuned to Colbert as an acquired taste. Colbert did not really prove that he could stand on his own as a headliner here, yet CBS seemed to believe that he could be their anchor tenant to hold their two show late night talk show block together.
CBS will stick with Stephen Colbert and give him plenty more time to build his audience, but at the same time there has to be some disappointment over at CBS to have half of all ratings quickly evaporate.
This means that a lot of viewers gave Colbert a chance for his first week, but didn’t like what they saw, so returned back to Jimmy Fallon or went elsewhere. And, that’s not a good message there…