• William Valle

Why Late Night is Dying

The landscape is changing. With 2019 being the end of so many beloved series and franchises, it's no surprise that entire genres of TV and Film may too be on the chopping block. By the end of the year we will have witnessed the full and complete realizations of 'Game of Thrones', 'Star Wars', 'Walking Dead', 'Marvel's Infinity Saga', Netflix's Marvel shows, Fox's 'X-Men', 'OitNB', 'Gotham', 'Arrow', 'Homeland', 'Silicon Valley', 'VEEP', 'Big Bang Theory', and more. With potentials like 'Toy Story' reaching it's climax, and god willing, 'Terminator' rounding out the end of the heavy hitters by the end of the year; cinema based entertainment will be poised to hit the reboot button on itself by 2020-2021. And although the marketing of these titles seem to revel in their attempts at mainstream awareness, there is yet another subgroup of entertainment that is slowly being phased out and possibly abandoned altogether; albeit somewhat silently. That being, the late night talk show. The first of the late night giants to fall was Carson Daly, whose show (now cancelled) had a viewership of 0.73 (million). For reference, Kimmel and Fallon duke it out at around 2.10 million each. Colbert stands above the rest with close to 4.0 million. Seth Meyers and James Corden take in 1.35-1.45 million viewers on average per episode. Trevor Noah comes in at 0.64, and trailing in the rear is everyone's favorite, Conan, who is barely pulling in anywhere from 0.15-0.37 million viewers a night. In case you couldn't gather, those aren't good numbers. Broadcast and Cable aren't the only potential casualties of a disinterested late night audience. Netflix not only cancelled Chelsea Handler's show two years ago, but as of recently, deleted her entire 66 episode archive. The reason being, topical shows don't do well in a re-watchable rerun format. Late Night is all about being first and funniest. That becomes impossible when someone with a living room mic and a web camera can get to market first. Reaching your targeted demographic before the rest is one of the most important rules of any business. To add insult to injury, Netflix also canceled 'The Break' and 'Joel McHale'. Hulu also recently dropped Sarah Silverman's show. Viewership for all late night is plummeting and no amount of established well known talent seems to be capable of righting the ship. If Carson, and Handler are two of the first bigger names to go, I'd expect more. Dominos falling to the inevitable drum of yesteryear will hail the end for others sooner than later. What will soon be regarded as a new classification of antiquity; something that was once useful, has been cast aside and turned to a quaint rust. By the standards of production, "professionally" broadcasted shows are mostly on par with many host-it-yourself shows online. In a way, Late Night as a medium was a nod to the original do-it-yourself production with it's simplistic set design and informal atmosphere. If there was ever anything easily recreated on a minuscule budget, it would be the late night talk show. If you consider the ratings of NBC, CBS and ABC when compared to a YouTuber with a million subs and 1-2 million views per episode, (for a 1000th of the cost) the future of the after-midnight industry becomes painstakingly clear; the party's about over. In fact, since the buyout of YouTube by Google, the majority of "trending" videos on YouTube are that of network based late night personalities. Clips are routinely swapped out for whatever is the most relevant to the network's agenda that day. This positioning appears deliberate as big business and corporate America further their attempts to actively push their guy first over the the "nobody" that they're trying to kill off. Which, honestly, is the antithesis of what YouTube is... Recognition of these viewing habits is radically altering Hollywood's plans for moving forward in the immediate future. By pushing out the little guy and taking over his network, Google has indirectly created a mass exodus of talent from YouTube that will be looking to sell their shows somewhere else; effectively turning YouTube into just another mainstream network like Hulu and Netflix or the soon to come, HBO-Max. However, disenfranchised YouTubers leaving won't be the only loss for the platform. Millions of viewers may leave with them. Product distribution is the most difficult obstacle in the any industry. Great products with terrible salesman are constants in any business that peddles in consumer based sales. (whether it's brick and mortar, e-commerce or a subscription model.) And now, Network TV is feeling the pressure that ironically they've shouldered on to so many in years prior. They're feeling the heat of what it's like to become irrelevant. Late Night TV's demise is imminent. Don't believe me? The majority of people watching Colbert do so the next day on their feed. They reserve their nighttime viewing for YouTube video essays or Netflix and chillin'. If that doesn't suggest a shift, I don't know what does. -Will Valle

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All works © Camel Moon Studios 2019. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Camel Moon Studios or William Valle.