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Why Colbert Makes Sense For ‘Late Show’

Stephen Colbert will be replacing David Letterman at “Late Show” on CBS, and that is remarkably convenient for us: We had done a study with SurveyMonkey Audience, an online polling firm, about politics and late-night talk shows.

On Feb. 27 and 28, SurveyMonkey asked 1,106 people about their viewing habits weeknights at 11:30. Among that group, 100 said they watched “Late Show With David Letterman,” and 105 said they watched “The Colbert Report.” That’s a small sample size, but it’s a good start to gleaning some basic similarities and differences between the two audiences.

First, there is some overlap between the shows’ viewers: 23 percent of people who said they regularly watched Letterman said they also regularly watched Colbert. So the Comedy Central phenom should have at least a small base of fans waiting for him at his new network.

But here’s a chart that will probably have some executives at CBS, a network seeking younger viewers, grinning:


The shows also have remarkably similar viewer-commitment patterns, according to our research. Roughly 20 to 25 percent of each show’s viewers watched daily, 50 to 60 percent watched a few times a week, and 8 percent watched once per week.

Politically, Colbert’s audience is slightly to the left of Letterman’s. But again, the sample size isn’t ideal:


Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.