What does this mean -- if anything -- for linear, live TV late-night talk shows? Plenty of revenue continues to be on the line -- even in the wake of a pandemic and weak economy.
Looking at the top TV network shows speak volumes -- sans jokes.
NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” pulled in $417.5 million in advertising revenue, according to iSpot.tv, from November 2019 to November 2020. CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” nabbed $378.6 million and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” saw $310.5 million.
After 11 years on TBS, “Conan” -- a late-night show that promised much when it started -- will see O’Brien moving to a perhaps lessor profile weekly variety series on HBO Max.
For decades, late-night TV has always been a high focus among TV analysis. Late-night TV broadcast network talkers have been a key element in pulling in younger viewers and therefore younger-skewing advertisers networks don’t normally get in prime time, daytime and morning series.
Cable TV networks also tried to capitalize on this -- especially when it comes to being integrated into some of their lighter, comedy-oriented programming content, which also skews older.
Now, streaming media has taken hold, and with it some erosion of audiences for all TV -- especially with younger audiences looking elsewhere for entertainment.
Pandemic-wise, we now get late-night shows offering familiar video boxes on a TV screen -- instead of a live TV set with comfy chairs, live music bands and comedy sketch entertainment.
Before TBS, O’Brien was at NBC for many years (“Late Night with Conan O’Brien”), culminating with a high profile exit from his short stint -- June 2009 to January 2010 -- on “The Tonight Show,” the prized NBC show, and overall leading late-night network show.
O’Brien’s short run was due to significant declining ratings. (NBC tried to push O’Brien to a later time period, something he declined to do.)
So with O’Brien moving to TBS, the belief was that this would be a major revenue source for the network. It wasn’t. “Conan,” according to iSpot.tv, pulled in $28.5 million in national TV advertising revenue for the last 12 months ending in mid-November.
What remains on cable for late-night TV talk/entertainment? “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” and TNT and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” A bit racier stuff? You can always count on HBO’s weekly “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
New entertainment and other kinds of new talkers are finding homes on premium streamer,s such as NBCU’s Peacock "The Amber Ruffin Show" and "Wilmore."
What is expected now -- easy laughs, meaningful ad dollars, high powered celebrities? Maybe a realistic lower profile -- but still an opening monologue filled with current events and jokes.