Late night ratings report: Stephen Colbert starts 2021 on top

Stephen Colbert (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images)
Stephen Colbert (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images) /

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert started 2021 in the same place it spent most of 2020: on top of the late night ratings. January proved to be a fantastic month for Stephen Colbert as he outperformed his competition.

Last year, The Late Show captured its fourth consecutive late night ratings title. In a great year for late night shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, more viewers turned to Colbert than any other host.

Some critics expressed concern over how Colbert’s type of show would perform with the departure of President Donald Trump. But the numbers reveal that no matter who is in the White House, Colbert still dominates in the ratings.

If the first month of 2021 is any indication, The Late Show will continue to attract audiences and earn more viewers than anyone else in late night.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert dominated the ratings in January

In the first week of January, The Late Show averaged 3.4 million viewers to outpace Jimmy Kimmel Live! (1.79 million) and The Tonight Show (1.59 million). It was Colbert’s second-best week of the season as audiences tuned in to see his reaction to the Capitol insurrection. Just under 4 million viewers watched Colbert’s live show on Jan. 6. The Late Show also did exceptionally well online as Colbert’s monologue from Jan. 6 earned over 15 million views on YouTube.

The momentum kept going as the week ending Jan. 17 was The Late Show‘s third-best of the season. Colbert pulled in more average viewers than Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Tonight Show combined.

For the week ending Jan. 22, it was more of the same. The Late Show averaged 3.36 million viewers and expanded its lead over Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. The highlight of the week came on Inauguration Day. Another live show gave Colbert his second-best Wednesday show of the season following his live show after the insurrection.

The numbers are even more impressive when you look at the season’s ratings up to this point. The Late Show‘s average nightly viewership is 79% higher than Jimmy Kimmel Live! and 108% higher than The Tonight Show.

Can Stephen Colbert keep his late night ratings success going?

The question now is how long The Late Show with Stephen Colbert can keep this momentum going. The barrage of political events like President Joe Biden’s inauguration and the Capitol insurrection definitely played a part in the show’s Jan. success. But consistency will be the key for Colbert.

All the evidence suggests that The Late Show will continue to top the late night ratings. The numbers may fall back to Earth a little bit and the gap between The Late Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Tonight Show may close. But both live audiences and online trends make it clear that fans prioritize Colbert over the competition.

Even on “slow” news days, Colbert’s monologues deliver viewers. The comedian has made it clear he’s ready to move on from Donald Trump, suggesting he’s not concerned about losing his audience in the process.

Of course, there will be events and stories that pop up and could require Colbert to go live like he did multiple times in January. Former President Trump is still facing an impeachment trial, meaning The Late Show isn’t done with him yet.

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