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Who's winning the late night wars on YouTube? (exclusive)


By Natan Edelsburg, SVP

August 15, 2016 | 8 min read

YouTube and online video have become the new battleground for late night talk shows. James Corden's Late Late Show only started in March 2015 but he is quickly gaining momentum to potentially become the leader in the online video late night wars.

Carpool Karaoke

James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with First Lady Michelle Obama

Late night television in the US is hitting a new crescendo in the digital age. Nearly seven years ago the late night wars were dominated by scandals surrounding linear scheduling. Now, as viewers watch late night TV chopped up, on different devices and at different times, the war is being fought in online video views and the battlefields are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

Jimmy Kimmel Live, LastWeekTonight, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Team Coco, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon still fight for linear ratings but the more interesting battle that actually reflects today's zeitgeist is happening online.

After Conan left NBC, he formed Team Coco, a digital behemoth that has defined his basic cable years. Jimmy Fallon's Saturday Night Live sketch roots helped him find his groove with viral hits like Lip Sync Battle that was spun off into its on TV show. John Oliver made HBO history by offering full clips of his long-form jabs at current events on YouTube (and he even won a Shorty Award for it, the show I produce). Kimmel's Mean Tweets and stunts has defined his presence. Most recently James Corden's Carpool Karaoke and Rap Battles sketches are being spun off into their own shows. Corden is quickly catching up to the veterans in big ways.

With more metrics than ever before on the late night wars, who's actually winning in online video views? Found Remote worked exclusively with social analytics platform Socialbakers to analyze how each are stacking up against each other on their main online video hubs, YouTube. Here are seven interactive charts made with Datawrapper.

Fallon is the overall leader, followed by Kimmel and Conan but Corden is quickly catching up and has earned himself the fourth position already.

Fallon and Kimmel have dominated on YouTube with total time viewed but Corden recently passed Conan for the third spot in June and continues to edge his way towards Kimmel.

Fallon and Kimmel are also dominating with subscribers, but once again Corden is in third and edging his way towards Kimmel.

Team Coco is in the lead in total uploads, which makes sense seeing as they have been around the longest and invested early in digital. Colbert is clearly trying as he recently moved into fourth in July after Kimmel and Fallon.

For growth of interactions on the channels Corden shot up to the number one spot in June and has stayed there.

While all the late night YouTube channels have a very high like to dislike ratio, Corden is in the lead.

Top video on their channels:

If you look at their most popular individual videos Corden is in a large lead with his Carpool Karaoke with Adele (121,916,567 views at publish time, 14:51 in length).

Team Coco's clip (11:46 in length) from January where he helps teach a staffer to drive with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart (is his top video (35,276,806 views at publish time).

Jimmy Fallon's Wheel of Musical Impressions (5:01 in length) from February is his top video (30,538,347 views at publish time).

John Oliver's rip into Trump (21:53 in length) in February is his top video, which is impressive since it doesn't have a big celebrity name like the others is the longest and his show only airs once a week (28,413,861 views at publish time).

Kimmel's top video is his release of the Assassin's Creed trailer (2:01 in length) that he released in May (15,606,242 views at publish time).

Key takeaways:

  • Comedy Central's Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore have some major catching up to do. Noah's channel isn't doing bad, but was only created at the end of May. Wilmore didn't have a dedicated one (and looks like he never will).
  • Corden is the one to watch - his viral clips are taking the internet by storm and even though he airs after Colbert on linear, his light year's ahead on YouTube.
  • Colbert is definitely making a large effort on YouTube but his transition from Comedy Central to CBS is definitely proving to be tricky on the web. Can he survive without hits like Carpool Karaoke and Jon Stewart stunts.
  • Fallon, Kimmel and Conan are the current kings but the new kids on the block are vying for king of the internet.
  • Samantha Bee's Full Frontal is another one to watch. Her channel is slowly but surely growing and as one of the only women hosts in the spotlight she's poised to finally disrupt the men's club.
  • John Oliver is creating a new genre with his long-form celebrity-less pieces that still create headlines.
  • Real Time with Bill Maher (who joined YouTube in 2006) shouldn't be ignored either with nearly 200,000,000 video views.
  • Bill Simmons' Any Given Wednesday is already going strong on YouTube and will be another one to watch.

You can access the Future of TV hub here. Sign up to receive The Drum's Future of TV newsletter.

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