Why CBS will air Stephen Colbert's 'Late Show' right after the Super Bowl

Colbert's program will be the first late-night show to air directly after the Super Bowl. 

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Stephen Colbert hosts CBS's 'The Late Show.'

Stephen Colbert will become the first host of a late-night program to have his show air directly after the Super Bowl this February.

Colbert debuted on CBS’s “Late Show” earlier this fall, following David Letterman’s retirement. Colbert comes to the gig after years hosting the Comedy Central program “The Colbert Report” and serving as a correspondent on “The Daily Show.” 

In the ratings, Colbert's program usually trails behind NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in the 18-49 demographic, but Colbert has brought something valuable to CBS: younger viewers.

As of this month, Colbert's ratings among the advertiser-beloved 18-49 demographic were up 50 percent over Letterman's ratings this time last year. Ratings among adults 18-34 were even better, getting double what Letterman was last year.

Streaming is also way up for the program under Colbert’s leadership. The program has experienced a 2,230 percent rise for the method of watching Colbert’s show. 

What about Colbert's fellow late-night hosts? When Fallon took over for Jay Leno at NBC, he brought in younger viewers, too. And while the ratings for Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” are down in terms of the 18 to 49 demographic, Noah is, like Colbert, attracting more of his audience via streaming services, with more than 40 percent of content being watched digitally as opposed to the 30 percent under Stewart. 

CBS doesn’t need to attract younger viewers specifically for the Super Bowl – everyone will watch then. But the network's choice to go with Colbert for the following time slot projects a larger message.

The network is airing “Supergirl” when superhero stories are the popular genre of the moment. CBS recently greenlit a “Star Trek” revival, but not for their TV channel – the new “Trek” episodes will air on their streaming platform, CBS All Access. And now they’re promoting a late-night host who is popular with young viewers in what is possibly the highest-profile TV slot all year.

Going with Colbert for the post-Super Bowl show is no doubt another sign of the network’s push to attract younger viewers in general. 

The Super Bowl will air on Feb. 7, 2016.

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