'Carpool Karaoke is the gateway drug to our other content,' James Corden's EP on why successful shows need to exist beyond their TV time-slot
When comedian James Corden took over the reins of The Late Late Show from fellow Brit Craig Ferguson in 2014 no one could have predicted its phenomenal global success over the last two years, not least the show’s executive producer Ben Winston.
Speaking to The Drum at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Winston says it was “without a doubt” a massive risk on both his and Corden’s part to take on the CBS show but in the “town of pilot seasons [Los Angeles]” it was worth a punt.
“It was more of a risk for James really,” says Winston, “for me I knew it would be a learning experience if it had went wrong and a life changing one if it went right,” thankfully for both it was the latter.
With over 200 episodes now under its belt as well as a global following in 155 countries and more Emmy nominations than any other late night daily show, Winston believes the show’s success comes down to the fact it has embraced all forms of media in a clever way to build hype and interest.
“The way we approach our show is that it launches at midnight but ultimately it should be consumed how you want it - be it catch-up, digitally or on your phone,” he explains.
“We changed our approach because if you’re making a show for late night now and want it to be huge success with brand partners and commercial viability then it needs to exist beyond when people see it before they go to bed.”
With six ad breaks per one hour of television in the US, Winston reveals a show like The Late Late Show lends itself to short online content but explains its been a very different experience for him as an executive producer to change the way he thinks about producing television to make it work whenever and wherever people choose to watch.
“The thing I love about our performance online is it’s an equal playing field, there’s no time slot, no lead in, no favourite channel,” he says. “Everyone puts their stuff online and the best stuff rises to the top, so it’s a really beautiful creative melting pot where you get to see what works and what doesn’t.
“It’s a very interesting way of the audience telling us immediately what they like by their viewing habits. We don’t go into a show thinking this will be a viral moment but there’s seven minutes to each part of the show so we think what does this part contain that can become biteable.”
Of course, the most “biteable” part of the show is runaway success Carpool Karaoke, which Winston admits he’s unashamedly proud of. “Everyone needs a hit single on their album, would Justin Bieber’s album be number one if it didn’t have ‘Sorry’ on it?,” he asks. “Carpool is ours, but it’s also a gateway drug to our other content.”
With just 17 or so Carpools and 185 YouTube clips with over one million hits, it’s easy to see Winston’s point here. “It’s no question the success of Carpool has lead people to engage with us and enjoy the show,” he says, adding that he’s “incredibly proud” of it as its TV at its simplest.
Of the recent deal with Sky 1 to air The Late Late Show digitally in the UK, Winston says he’s pleased with the decision not to show it in a linear slot. “Fundamentally we make a show for the US and I didn’t want it to be judged alongside you Graham Nortons, Alan Carrs and Jonathan Ross’. There was a lot of discussions between us and Sky on how to market and broadcast the show and Adam MacDonald (Sky 1’s controller) was very understanding of all my worries and concerns.”
Of the show’s success, Winston remains modest claiming “I don’t know why it’s got appeal, I guess it’s James. He’s an amazingly talented man and there’s a lot of love for him internationally and in the UK. He’s such a brilliant mind and he’s able to deliver what anyone throws at him.
“We could come up with the best ideas in the world but without James to host them, front them and run them we haven’t got a show.”