Monday, September 12, 2011

Late Night Comedy Meets the Emmys

Yesterday's NYT featured an interesting story about the changing face of late-night comedy and the race for the coveted Emmy award for the best variety, music, or comedy series. As noted in the article, Jimmy Fallon is the only network host/program nominated for the Emmy. The other nominations are for cable programs -- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Conan's new show on TBS, and HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.

The article focuses on the importance of the nomination for Fallon and the reality that both Letterman and Leno are missing from the list of nominees. 

In addition, the piece stresses the success of both Stewart and Colbert and their increasing rise in the ratings:

The arrows continue to point up for him [Stewart] and Mr. Colbert; their ratings were both up over the past year, and with an election looming — the richest of subjects for the most topical of hosts — the prospects are good for even more increases. To say nothing of profits. Beyond the passionate fan reaction those two shows draw, they also constitute what many in late night see as the future of the format: cost-contained productions on fewer nights of the year.

In fact, the days of the expensive late-night variety show complete with a house band, expensive sets, etc. may soon become a relic of the past.

Also interesting is the changing demographics of the late night audience. Contrary to popular belief, late night comedy has an older and more diverse audience -- it's no longer just a time slot for a young adult male viewing audience.

The Fallon show generally has the youngest staff, but the O’Brien show has by far the youngest audience. The median age of his viewers is a stunning 32. By comparison Mr. Colbert’s audience age is 39; Mr. Stewart’s is 41; Mr. Fallon’s is 49, Mr. Kimmel’s is 51; and in the senior division, Mr. Letterman and Mr. Leno have audiences with a median age of about 56. 

While it is likely that a cable program will take home the statue given the odds (and I'd actually be pretty confident in betting on the winner), it's still an accomplishment for Fallon to be nominated. 

As audience demographics continue to shift, look for the networks -- both broadcast and cable -- to respond to the changing dynamics of the late night comedy audience. We may in fact see more programs shift to fit the Stewart/Colbert/Comedy Central mold.

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