Stephen Colbert is making CBS feel young again. According to Nielsen statistics released Thursday, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” has posted huge gains among young audiences thus far in the new fall TV season.
Through the first two weeks of the new season, the new "Late Show" has doubled the number of 18-34-year-old viewers it had during the same period last year, when David Letterman was hosting the show. The number of viewers aged 18-49 is up 60 percent, and viewers aged 25-54 increased 29 percent. Those boosts led to a healthy 18 percent uptick in terms of total viewers, with 3.17 million viewers tuning in, compared to 2.7 million last season.
Partway through this week, Colbert’s youthful bump is even more pronounced. Its share of 18-34-year-old viewers is up 200 percent, and its share of 18-49s is up 40 percent, all the more impressive when one considers that Colbert's guests this week -- Sen. John McCain, the cellist Yo Yo Ma, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke -- have not exactly been youth-friendly.
Unlike Comedy Central, which bills itself as a youth magnet, CBS has long been the network of choice for older viewers. Its viewers’ median age is 59.9, the highest of the network broadcasters, though its competition all draw thoroughly middle-aged audiences. These early returns are just what CBS was hoping for when it announced Colbert would become Letterman’s replacement. Back when he was in character on his Comedy Central show, Colbert enjoyed the youngest average audience among all late-night shows; Letterman, whose viewers had an average age of nearly 59, had the oldest.
While it's important to note that mean and median are not the same thing, it's also worth noting that late-night shows generally do not attract the spring chickens. In crowing about how many younger viewers flocked to their televisions to watch new "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah, Comedy Central pronounced that the influx of youngs dropped show’s median viewer age to 46, a decline of six years from when Jon Stewart hosted.