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.