But does it mean much these days? Shouldn’t other measures now be touted, such as advertisers’ “business outcomes"?
Colbert's victory is still notable -- but also narrow. Season-to-date, “Late Show” is at an 0.54 Nielsen rating/4 share (692,000 viewers) among 18-49 viewers versus "Tonight" at 0.53/4 (686,000) ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” at 0.40/3.
Starting in February 2017, 'Colbert' easily bested 'Fallon' when it comes to total viewers, a viewer gap that has been growing. Now, it is at a 3.8 million 2018-209 season-to-date Nielsen number, versus 2.5 million for Fallon.
ABC’s “Kimmel” is at 2.1 million.
Colbert’s ascension came just after Donald Trump was elected in late 2016, when he transitioned back to funny political content -- but not his fictional, politically fringe character on "The Daily Show."
Critics say late-night TV viewers were looking for a shift, leaving the light-hearted, skit and musical bits of Fallon and finding Colbert’s more real-world political comedy.
Both late-night shows bits -- including opening monologues -- can be seen on YouTube and other places, platforms catering to the 18-49 and 18-34 demos.
Beyond a variety of possible “business outcome” data, which may be hard to synthesize in a press account, does any of this matter to longtime late-night advertisers in a TV daypart rife with time-shifting and fast-forwarding ads?
The bottom line for “business outcomes” is looking at dollars and cents for performances.
National TV advertising results show both “Late Show” and “Tonight” have comparable annual national advertising revenue, according to iSpot.tv estimates, in the March 2018 to March 2019 period, with “Late Show” inking $395.2 million, “Tonight” with $387.7 million and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” at $323 million.
We all understand money, right?