I don't think this means the end of Stephen Colbert, but I think it does mean that changes will have to be made with how his show is marketed:
In a year of unprecedented change in late-night television, one date stands out as the defining moment. No, not Sept. 8, the night circled on most calendars — the premiere of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS. Colbert, a Comedy Central alum flush with a second Emmy for outstanding variety series, did arrive with plenty of fanfare.
But none of that mattered — for long. D-day for late-night TV was Sept. 9, when Colbert's splashy, classy introduction to the Ed Sullivan Theater was upstaged abruptly by a commotion a few blocks south at 30 Rock. NBC's Jimmy Fallon came crashing through TV screens with the most boisterous blockbuster hour of entertainment he could fashion. Opening with a blast of dance and song — "History of Rap 6," accompanied by his signature guest, Justin Timberlake — and backing it with Ellen DeGeneres in another regular Fallon bit, a lip sync contest, the Tonight Show host made a statement: Welcome to late night, Stephen.
One prominent late-night player told me facing that show that night was like "going up against Hiroshima and Nagasaki." Fallon clearly had no interest in sitting back to allow the swirl surrounding Colbert's arrival to run its course. Those killer second-night bookings were long in the planning and very much the host's idea, says a Fallon staffer. Colbert's ratings preeminence lasted 24 hours: Fallon beat him the second night — and 55 of the next 58 nights. During recent weeks, the gap has grown in the 18-to-49 demographic coveted by late-night advertisers.
Now, there are a lot of things to remember here. It would appear that Fallon is falling apart in public. He's had numerous injuries and more than his fair share of Gawker-level gossip. He's working awfully hard while Colbert is settling in to his role as a far more cerebral host than anyone since Tom Snyder. And, really, that is the problem here. Fallon has the three minute YouTube bit down pat. Colbert has substance and fewer laughs. You can watch any show any time now, and that's why ratings are really deceiving. You literally don't have to make a hard choice anymore--you can watch Kimmel live, catch the Fallon clips the next morning, and sample Colbert's opening whenever you want.
I thought by now people would have gravitated to a smart show down the right way. Apparently not.
It's not fair to bring politics into this--Johnny Carson would have had a field day with the Clintons, Bernie Sanders, and everyone self-identifying as a Republican. He would not have been fair to anyone, and that's why blaming Colbert's ratings on politics is wrong. If it's funny, you tell the joke. This has been true since forever. Perhaps the problem is we have fewer and fewer people who can laugh at both sides. If that's the case, then the reason why Colbert hasn't been doing so well can be traced to the fact that