November 29, 2017 4:27 pm
Updated: November 29, 2017 4:35 pm

Jimmy Fallon ratings plummet, Stephen Colbert reigning king of late night

WATCH: In October, Stephen Colbert accused Donald Trump's White House of pushing fake news.


It looks like going political has really helped The Late Show host Stephen Colbert.

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Almost a year after Donald Trump began his tumultuous presidency, Colbert has taken a hard tack towards political coverage on his show, while direct competitor Jimmy Fallon, who’s shied away from that approach over on The Tonight Show, has seen his ratings plummet.

Colbert has had the top spot in late-night total viewer rankings since February, and his lead has only widened since then. Fallon’s audience has plummeted 21 per cent (year over year) since his latest season began in late September, while Colbert’s has increased 23 per cent.

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Jimmy Kimmel has even made slight gains, making Fallon’s Tonight Show the only late-night program that’s stumbled. Kimmel may even threaten Fallon’s No. 2 spot, as he’s approaching 2.4-million viewers a night, compared with Fallon’s 2.6 million.

The latest Nielsen numbers estimate that Fallon lost 700,000 total viewers per night (on average) from 2016 to 2017, while Colbert’s total viewership has only grown.

Fallon’s Tonight Show still holds the top spot for viewers aged 18 – 49, but that lead is shrinking rapidly, with Colbert nipping at his heels.

For the fall season 2016 rankings, Fallon’s show drew 1.1-million viewers in that age group, but now, for the fall season 2017 rankings, the Tonight Show has fallen to 836,000.

While Colbert didn’t gain in the 18 – 49 age group — all late-night shows fell in this category, actually — he’s a mere 90,000 viewers away from taking over Fallon’s lead. (The median age of a Colbert watcher is 61 years old, and for Fallon’s show, it’s 56.)

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Colbert has been focusing on Trump’s presidency, and after his monologues, he usually settles in with sincere, interesting interviews. Similarly, Kimmel has taken a turn for the serious, dissecting and lamenting the Affordable Care Act, for example; he also made things personal by openly sharing details of his son’s heart defect with the viewing audience.

On the flip side, Fallon has been stumbling with juvenile, gimmicky content and “games” he likes to play with his guests while avoiding any political commentary (short of a Trump impression he likes to roll out from time to time, which is forgettable in the shadow of Alec Baldwin’s world-famous Saturday Night Live Trump). Often asinine and rarely substantive, viewers are starting to change the channel.

Fallon scored a coveted then-Republican presidential candidate Trump visit in September of 2016, when he famously tousled his hair. (You can watch, below.)

Now a moment embedded in late-night canon, it appears Fallon hasn’t recovered from it.

“The bad news for us, as a business, is that this really difficult presidency… drives viewers to this kind of programming,” said MSNBC host and TV pundit Lawrence O’Donnell to comedian Adam Carolla last week. “Stephen Colbert has skyrocketed because of his anti-Trump stance every night that he does relentlessly.”

‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ airs on Global on weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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