I have a feeling that one way or the other, Jon Stewart’s next home is going to be at Netflix or Amazon.
You could imagine he has something like John Oliver-envy these days. Oliver, who got his start as a “correspondent” for Stewart, does what is essentially a sensational, highly focused version of “The Daily Show” --but just weekly--on his HBO series, “Last Week Tonight.” He has had no trouble getting noticed even by the millions of people who don’t get HBO. (Also watching: the FCC.)
Stewart at either of the most prominent online pay services could be a killer combination — and the kind of pivotal tipping-point move that it was when Fox nabbed rights to the NFL from CBS starting with the 1994 season.
As Stewart, Comedy Central and YouTube have proved for years, being on television at 11 o’clock at night is not important. The cable network repeats the show three times a day. On YouTube, Stewart clips are as ubiquitous as cute kitty videos. They're central to his wide popularity.
In short, Stewart’s audience, is used to finding him online, on their own time. The idea of a Monday-through-Thursday night gig is absolutely pointless.
But the idea of a Stewart-less presidential race is absolutely impossible.
There’s no reason he couldn’t show up, more or less on his own timetable and in whatever venue he chooses on a pay service. That loosy-goosy approach would still give him time to spend with his own projects, like “Rosewater,” the film he directed, and his family. He mentioned his absence from them not just Tuesday night, but the night before, when he interviewed Patricia Arquette. He seems sincerely committed to stepping back from the daily grind. After 17 years, it’s getting old.
“I don’t think I’m going to miss being on television every day,” he said as he told the audience about his plans to leave “The Daily Show.” But he didn’t say it in the way that he was hinting his next move was already settled. In fact, he said, he doesn’t have a plan for right now.
Yet, as a Pew study indicates, nearly 40% of Stewart’s “Daily Show” audience is under 30 years old, and that’s the kind of demographic skew that media moguls don’t just let slip into some laughless good night.
That has to be particularly true for pay-services like Amazon and Netflix, which are targeting millennials that are most likely to seek alternatives to what’s out there. Both are battling to assemble a stable of exclusive programs and nothing can be much easier toward achieving that goal than having someone like Jon Stewart around.