Late Show host Stephen Colbert will host his CBS late-night program live during the Republican and Democrat National Conventions in July, in what could be an attempt to extricate the program from its months-long ratings slump.
The Live Late Show with Stephen Colbert will air July 18-21, during the week of the Republican National Convention, and again from July 25-28, when the Democrats hold their convention, according to Variety.
Colbert will remain at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and provide commentary on the goings-on in Cleveland and Philadelphia, while the show may dispatch correspondents to cover convention news as it happens on the ground.
The move to a live broadcast during those two weeks may be an attempt to shake The Late Show out of its long ratings nightmare.
According to TheWrap, Colbert’s show is coming off of its lowest-rated week to date, posting a tepid 0.38 rating in the coveted 18-49 key demo and drawing an average of just 2.054 million viewers.
By comparison, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon — who welcomed both President Obama and pop star Madonna as guests during the same night last week — posted a 0.83 rating for the week and drew 3.321 million viewers, while ABC’s broadcast of the NBA Finals pushed usual third-place finisher Jimmy Kimmel ahead of Colbert with a 0.78 rating and 2.575 million viewers for the week.
Colbert has struggled to find his footing since taking over the program from predecessor David Letterman in September. Shortly after taking over, Colbert quickly slipped to fourth place in the late-night wars, falling behind even NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers. But even during that period in December, Colbert drew a 0.54 in the key 18-49 demo, a far better number than last week’s 0.38.
The show brought on a new executive producer in Chris Licht in April in an attempt to right the ship. Before Licht’s arrival, Colbert had essentially been executive-producing the show himself, along with his former Colbert Report team from Comedy Central.
But The Late Show‘s ratings are even worse now; when Licht took over in April, the program was averaging a solid 2.94 million viewers, according to Fortune.
As theWrap points out, part of the reason for The Late Show‘s sinking ratings is due to Colbert’s shift from his Bill O’Reilly-type, faux conservative character during his Comedy Central heyday to his regular persona on a major broadcast network. The way the ratings look now, it appears viewers preferred the character Colbert played on Comedy Central to the “real Stephen Colbert” on CBS.
But Colbert has also struggled to put out the viral video content that first-place Jimmy Fallon uses to extend his presence well beyond the television screen. Fallon regularly racks up millions of views on online videos that feature him “slow-jamming” the news with President Obama, or playing “Ew!” with celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Taylor Swift. One of Fallon’s most popular viral hits, Lip Sync Battle, was even developed into its own stand-alone program on Spike.
Colbert’s online content, however, often makes the news for its political controversy rather than simple fun. Earlier this month, a segment of The Late Show drew widespread coverage when Colbert drew a swastika on a chalkboard to equate Republican presidential contender Donald Trump with Nazism.
The warning signs were apparent as far back as November, when a survey conducted by the Hollywood Reporter found that Colbert was most likely putting off conservative viewers with his show’s overtly political tone.
To be fair, ratings on all the broadcast networks tend to dip during the summer. But Colbert will face the same stiff competition he normally does with his live broadcasts during the weeks of the Republican and Democrat conventions, as HBO’s Bill Maher, Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah and TBS’ Samantha Bee have all flirted with plans for expanded coverage of the conventions.
Colbert could turn things around, but it will have to happen soon. Executive producer Licht will have to tap the show’s energy from its run during the first week of May, when it enjoyed its best ratings bump since February.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum