Political Impact on Late Night Viewership & Audiences
Since President Trump’s inauguration, late night hosts and their program’s content have become increasingly political. Samba TV measured the impact on viewership trends along with the audience’s political affiliation from January 2017 through July 2018 across four late night talk shows.
Overall Viewership Trends
In order to analyze viewership trends for each late night talk show, Samba TV measured the average percent of US Households that tuned-in each week.
- All four programs experienced viewership declines since Trump’s January 2017 inauguration.
- Fallon has fallen the farthest (-42%) and his once-sizable lead as the most-viewed late night talk show is now in jeopardy, while Colbert decreased just 6% and is encroaching on the top spot.
Viewership Retention Trends
Samba TV measured the average percentage of US households that were gained, lost and retained month-over-month from January 2017 through July 2018. This illustrates the fluctuation of how viewers engaged with each program in response to current events and political commentary from the hosts.
- Temporary gains tended to align with high-profile topics such as the health care debate, gun control, and the hosts responding to verbal attacks and tweets from the President.
- The largest single-month gain was +142% by Kimmel from May-June 2017, following the viral healthcare policy monologue he delivered about his newborn son’s heart condition.
Consumption Index Trends
To determine political affiliation, Samba TV analyzed cable news consumption index — the volume of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC consumed by each program’s audience versus the US average.
- CNN and MSNBC were used as a proxy for liberal political affiliation, and all four programs saw an increase in the consumption index for these networks.
- The most dramatic change was Late Show With Stephen Colbert which experienced sizable gains in consumption index for CNN (+98%) and MSNBC (+61%) between January 2017 and July 2018.
- Since President Trump took office, Jimmy Fallon’s audience had the highest increase of Fox News consumption index (+13%), proving that conservative viewers favored his lack of political content and criticism of the president.