Is the end of late-night TV as we've known it near?
Two staples of late-night TV – 'The Tonight Show' and 'Nightline' – received bad news this month, suggesting that a recasting of the late-night order might not be far off.
Late-night television could be facing seismic shifts as trends that have shaped the industry during the past few years take an increasing toll on two signature network shows.Skip to next paragraph
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Second, NBC’s “Tonight Show” – long the lucrative late-night standard-bearer – laid off 20 employees in August and host Jay Leno took a 10 percent pay cut. The Los Angeles Times reports that the show is “barely breaking even."
For some media experts, it raises questions about whether the three pillars of late-night television during the past 20 years – "The Tonight Show," "The Late Show with David Letterman," and "Nightline" – are nearing their expiration dates, at least in their current forms.
Cable now controls 84 percent of the $5.6 billion late-night TV market, according to Kantar Media research. In 2011 alone, broadcast TV's share of late-night viewers fell 5 percent.
For "The Tonight Show" and "The Late Show," perhaps the bigger issue is the demographics of who is watching. Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" is attracting more viewers aged 18 to 49 – the demographic most sought by advertisers – than is Mr. Leno, and Stephen Colbert, whose "Colbert Report" follows "The Daily Show," is close.
"The Daily Show" has a median viewer age of 43, compared with 58 for "Tonight." (By comparison, the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes," one of the oldest-skewing shows in prime time, has a median viewer age of 61).
That was what moved "Nightline" to its new, later slot. “Nightline” actually has more viewers than “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” but Mr. Kimmel's show generates more than twice the revenue because of its younger audience.
“The lessons are that credible, unbiased, national news is having an increasingly difficult time in reaching an audience large enough to be profitable,” says Richard Goedkoop, professor of communication at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
Though "Nightline" will also get a new, prime time weekly show in prime time Friday, many media experts say the move harbingers the program's slow death.