TiVo Research: Viewers are loyal to late night hosts, not specific late night brands

By Adam Flomenbaum | Co-Executive Editor

November 23, 2015 | 4 min read

In 1992 viewers shifted from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno not because of the appeal of the latter as much as “The Tonight Show” brand itself.

But the late night landscape has shifted drastically in just the past three years, and so too have viewers. There are more hosts on more networks, and fan-favorite hosts have either stepped down or been replaced, or, have done the replacing themselves.

In an attempt to measure how viewer loyalty has shifted, if it all, TiVo today released research revealing that 74 percent of viewers have followed their favorite host to that host’s new late-night show rather than continuing to watch the show they left (i.e. now watching The Late Show With Stephen Colbert rather than Larry Wilmore). TiVo collected viewing data from 157,000 TiVo homes that regularly watched the major late night shows on NBC, CBS, and Comedy Central, and late night viewers mainly fell into three buckets

- Late Night Fanatics/Fallon Loyalists - 18 percent - Those whose favorite hosts are Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, but also started watching Late Night with Seth Meyers.

- Jay Leno Loyalists - 37 percent - Those whose only favorite host is Jay Leno and whose viewership ceased after he left the Tonight Show.

- “Band-Wagon Viewers” - 26 percent - Those who watch the most popular late-night show regardless of the host.

- Late Show Fanatics/Colbert Loyalists - 19 percent - Those who followed Stephan Colbert to the Late Show and stopped watching the Daily Show when Jon Stewart left.

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“We’re in the midst of a late-night viewer paradigm shift, and the loyalty we are seeing to hosts is a great reflection of the power of these celebrity personalities,” said TiVo Chief Research Officer Jonathan Steuer. “Tracking such a complex set of viewer migration patterns gives TiVo a chance to showcase the capabilities of our highly granular household-level viewership data and the analytical chops of our fabulous data science team. As a TV pioneer, TiVo continues to find new ways to add value to how we all consume the television we love.”

For late night shows, the “Jay Leno Loyalists” (37 percent) and the “Band-Wagon Viewers (26 percent) are two big subsets that are up for grabs. Leno drew an older demographic that watched more for the monologue than the antics. I would bet that many of these viewers have actually taken a linking to Jimmy Kimmel – whose show was not measured in this study - rather than Fallon or Colbert.

More, there is a good chance that as both Fallon and Colbert find their grooves (being a late night host is like being a Supreme Court judge in terms of longevity) these “Band-Wagon viewers” will eventually become single-host loyalists.

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