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Who Is Winning the Late-Night Ratings Wars These Days?

By Dustin Rowles | Late Night TV | March 31, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Late Night TV | March 31, 2016 |

Nielsen ratings obviously don’t matter as much as they used to, and when it comes to late-night television, they matter even less, because so much of what is seen from late-night is seen the next morning on YouTube or Hulu or a network’s streaming site.

However, I was curious, about who was winning the late-night wars, and in terms of all viewers, the answer may be surprising. Here’s the latest ratings I could find for each of the shows:

Last Week Tonight John Oliver — 4.7 million (average weekly viewership, including re-airs)

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon — 3.2 million

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert — 2.57 million

Jimmy Kimmel Live — 2.53 million

Late Night with Seth Meyers — 1.56 million

Nightline — 1.56 million

Late Late Show with James Corden — 1.33 million

Last Call with Carson Daly — 900,000

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah — 840,000

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee — 620,000

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore — 560,000

Conan — 520,000


There are a couple of caveats with John Oliver’s ascension to number one. His show only airs once a week, and the number takes into account all of the re-airs. On the other hand, his Donald Drumpf episode was seen by more than 6 million viewers, and the YouTube video of the Drumpf takedown is the most popular viral video for HBO ever, having been seen over 85 million times now.

The other surprise may be Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, and that 620,000 number doesn’t tell the whole story. For one, Full Frontal is new, it airs at 10:30 p.m. and it’s handily beating its lead-out, Conan. In 18-49, it’s also roughly even with James Corden and Samantha Bee’s show is being seen by roughly the same number of females as The Daily Show (which has a viewership that is 75 percent male).

Point being: John Oliver is the best, and Samantha Bee is basically kicking Trevor Noah’s ass once expectations are taken into account (not to mention the fact that Noah’s The Daily Show is off 30 percent from last year).

One other wrinkle: Colbert is narrowly beating Kimmel in overall viewers, but Kimmel is leading Colbert in 18-49 viewers.

Also, poor Conan is getting smoked by Carson Daly.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.