If you’re regular readers of fourthmic, you will have noticed that we often lament the way that late night television seems to be seeking the next viral video more than they are worried about making a television show that stands on its own and is meant to be watched late at night (or very early in the morning). We’re not saying anything new when we say that the various games and other gimmicks favored by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are meant to appeal to YouTube viewers as much as (or more than) live audiences. And we suppose that’s alright, but with nearly every other show following suit, it adds another layer to the late night competition.
YouTube hits have even become a parameter by which these shows are judged, needing to be factored alongside traditional ratings. The Hollywood Reporter today released the YouTube numbers from March, compiled in a helpful chart:
As you can see, Jimmy Fallon is the clear winner, with 233 million views in the month. We’re not surprised that Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Late Show with James Corden come in second and third, respectively. While Jimmy Fallon relies on live games with celebrities to get people to click, both Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden rely on pre-taped sketches to go viral. Conan is at his best lately when he’s out of the studio, and these segments are also the ones that seem to do best on YouTube. And finally, John Oliver overcomes the issue of the fact that relatively few people have HBO subscriptions by posting the entire main segment of his show every week. When he tackles a particularly controversial topic like Donald Trump/Donald Drumpf, this can have huge rewards.
What is perhaps most telling, though, are the two shows that don’t appear on the chart: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Meyers. It’s not as though either Stephen Colbert or Seth Meyers don’t have segments that can (and do) go viral, but this is on a much less consistent or overt basis. Personally, we’re partial to Seth Meyer’s “Closer Look” and “Ya Burnt” segments, but we understand why they don’t garner as much widespread appeal as Jimmy Fallon’s “Lip Sync Battles” or James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke”.
Whatever the case, with the kind of YouTube numbers that shows like The Tonight Show are getting, the quest for the next viral hit isn’t going to stop anytime soon.