Talk shows occupy a unique position in the content landscape, combining elements of comedy, news, celebrity guests, and musical acts - seemingly something for everyone. However, this genre has struggled to find its footing in the new streaming era. Long gone are the days of Leno and Letterman serving up their take on current events to millions of Americans each night. Today’s world looks much more fragmented with a number of talk shows competing for audience attention by carving out their own niche as viewers get their cultural commentary from a growing number of sources.
In March, three talk shows stood out in a top tier with over 20 times the average series demand - The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In particular The Late Show and Last Week Tonight were in a tight race for the top spot.
The Problem with Jon Stewart from Apple TV+ is the only streaming original talk show to make the top ten this month with 16.23 times the average series demand, hinting at how the genre as a whole has not yet cracked the code for success in the streaming world. Jon Stewart made his name hosting The Daily Show, now helmed by Trevor Noah, which had higher demand than Jon Stewart’s new Apple TV+ show.
Some potentially good news for the streaming future of talk shows is the high demand for Conan despite this show having wrapped up last June. HBO Max has a planned show featuring Conan O’Brien, although the few details that have been released suggest the show may be a unique reimagining of the talk show format. Conan himself has the fourth highest talent demand of all the above talk show hosts.
A major component of demand for talk shows like these is driven by the hosts themselves. The way these shows are titled and marketed puts particular emphasis on the talent hosting the show. Looking at the talent demand for these talk show hosts we can get a sense of the relative size of their fandoms and how much their star power is helping drive demand for their show.
For example, Stephen Colbert is currently the king of late night talk shows. He was the most in-demand talk show host we looked at, with 31.11 times the demand for the average talent. His eponymous show was also the most in-demand talk show for the month.
It is more interesting to consider the shows where there is a substantial difference between demand for the show and the talent demand for its host. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver came close to being the most in-demand talk show for the month despite John Oliver having a modest 8.5 times the average talent demand, which is below the demand for most of these hosts. This suggests that demand for Last Week Tonight is driven more by demand for the content itself than its host. Conversely, Ellen DeGeneres ranked as the fifth most in-demand talk show host, but her show ranked as the ninth most in-demand talk show, seemingly a case of high star power not effectively translating to high demand for content.