Who’s winning and losing late-night TV under Trump

Late night ratings under trump skye gould Business Insider getty
In the last few weeks, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon has lost the ratings war to CBS’s Stephen Colbert. Michael Loccisan/Getty; Paul Zimmerman/Getty; Skye Gould/Business Insider

While President Donald Trump has been a source of division among Americans, most of television’s late-night hosts are in agreement: Trump makes for good joke fodder and pointed criticism.

But which ones are capitalising the most in the time since Trump has taken office? Business Insider pulled the Nielsen ratings for TV’s late-night shows to find out.

We did a comparison of total viewers between January 1, 2016, and February 26, 2016, against the same dates in 2017 to see who had the most growth in viewers year-over-year (and who’s been declining). What we found was pretty surprising.

Jimmy Fallon, once the young king of late night, has been dethroned by a rising Stephen Colbert, and political comedy in general is cashing in.

Take a look at the late-night winners and losers under Trump in the chart below:

Late night viewership ratings donald trump

Samantha Bee saw the greatest increase in her audience under Trump — by a huge 144%. It should be pointed out that Bee’s TBS show, “Full Frontal,” had just premiered around this time last year and had the chance to steadily build her audience from scratch. But her pointed criticism could’ve fallen flat with audiences. Thankfully for her, that’s clearly not the case.

Samantha bee
Among all the late-night shows, TBS’s ‘Full Frontal with Samantha Bee’ saw the largest audience growth under President Donald Trump. TBS

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” took the No. 2 slot for audience growth with a 68% increase in his audience. Some of that could be attributed to his recent controversial interview with conservative firebrand

Milo Yiannopoulos, but that only gave him a 12% boost in viewers over the previous week’s episode.
Of course, broadcast takes the biggest piece of the cake. Among those shows, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” can claim the biggest increase since Trump took office. His decision to go harder on politics instead of ignoring his “Colbert Report” roots, led by a new showrunner brought on last year, was a good one. Colbert’s total audience grew 13% over last year.

The greatest fall was that of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show.” Fallon has lost about 17% of his audience year-over-year. It seems like his off-the-wall celebrity games have gotten old with viewers and that he may have taken a big hit with his softball interview with Trump during the campaign. Once the No. 1 late-night show in broadcast TV, the “Tonight Show” has lost the ratings war to Colbert in recent weeks. Leaks from the show suggest he’s going to try and follow in the CBS host’s footsteps and get more political.

Fallon’s ratings problem is pretty much every NBC late-night host’s problem, as he’s not helping to bring eyeballs to the programs that follow him. Seth Meyers, who has been celebrated for his sharp political commentary on “Late Night,” is down 8%. Even Carson Daly, who isn’t political at all, is seeing a 7% dip in audience for “Last Call.”

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