Is something bigger in store for Fox News Channel’s Greg Gutfeld?

The dominance of the left wing in cable news created a huge opportunity for Fox News Channel. Could a similar opportunity be ahead in late night talk shows, currently dominated by leftists like Stephen Cobert?

Fox News Channel has been promoting the rather startling ratings success of the Greg Gutfeld Show, a weekends-only late night (10PM Eastern) comedy competitor to the likes of Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel, all of whom occupy a similar slot on weekdays, when viewership normally is much higher. Brian Steinberg of Variety:

Fox News [is] airing a promo that tilts against TV’s late-night crowd by showing that Gutfeld’s program draws a bigger overall audience than most of them.  “Seth Meyers, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah – the joke’s on you!” an announcer intones (Bill Maher, Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver appear on screen, alongside their aforementioned late-night brethren). The promo contains quotes about Gutfeld’s show from articles that were published earlier this week.

YouTube screen grab


Joe Concha, media analyst for The Hill (and frequent guest on Tucker Carlson’s FNC weeknight program), lays out the numbers on viewership:

Gutfeld launched his 10 p.m. Saturday show, "The Greg Gutfeld Show," in May 2015 and is currently averaging 1.7 million viewers. That places him above NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers" and CBS's "Late Late Show with James Corden," both averaging 1.2 million total viewers in their respective 12:30 a.m. time slots.

Gutfeld’s ratings are certainly aided by his earlier time slot, but as Concha notes:

Gutfeld's numbers are noteworthy since Fridays and Saturdays are generally the least-watched nights of television.

"The Five" co-host is also delivering more than double the number of viewers of TBS's "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" and Comedy Central's "Daily Show" with Trevor Noah, which are averaging 835,000 and 732,000 viewers, respectively. 

Gutfeld's audience ranks fourth among late-night hosts, behind Stephen ColbertJimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon.

Gutfeld’s total viewership numbers average 1.7 million, and are closing in on Kimmel’s ABC show:

Colbert, 55, finished the season, which officially ended last Wednesday, with 3.82 million average nightly viewers, ahead of Fallon’s 2.44 million on NBC and Kimmel’s 2.04 million on ABC.

The trend is definitely the friend of Gutfeld:

All three late-night shows lost viewers since last year, however. Colbert's audience dropped by 2 percent, while Fallon was off by 9 percent and Kimmel was down 10 percent. 

Gutfeld already is surpassing other prominent comedy/politics shows, as Mark Joyellla notes in Forbes:

Gutfeld's ratings performance in May comes in a year of strong growth for the show, which has built an audience larger than many more established and high profile cable news and politics shows, including HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher (1.5 million viewers), HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (1.3 million viewers), TBS' Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (692,000 viewers) and Comedy Central's The Daily Show (646,000).

Mike LaChance of Legal Insurrection mentions the elephant in the room, when it comes to late night comedy shows:

In the age of Trump, pretty much every late night entertainment show has come down with a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. The lone exception is The Greg Gutfeld Show on FOX News, which airs at 10 pm on Saturday night. Greg’s approach is paying off big in ratings.

All of this is taking place in the context of a broader cultural separation between conservatives and radicals, who are carving out separate spheres of communications, including news and entertainment. What Fox News Channel has discovered is that its niche of serving conservatives – as Charles Krauthammer noted, an underserved niche that amounts to half the country – applies to more than news readers and talking head discussion shows. It now includes late night television with discussions taking place before a live audience – the format pioneered by the Tonight Show in the 1950s.

At the moment, confined to lower-rated weekend nights, the Greg Gutfeld Show has no band, and has a smallish studio audience (judging by the audio of laughter and clapping – I have never seen a shot of the audience, perhaps because it is so small), but if it went to a five night a week schedule, such enhancements would be relatively inexpensive, if desired by Gutfeld and his producers.

So, is Fox News or perhaps the Fox broadcast network, contemplating a frontal challenge to Colbert, Kimmel and Fallon on the Monday-to-Friday schedule? It would not surprise me, and would become a cultural landmark if successful, as it probably would be. With a country evenly divided along political lines, and three comedy shows (four, if you count Conan O’Brien on TBS) dividing up half the market on the broadcast nets – all of them unwatchable for conservatives due to their rabid Trump hatred – the opportunity exists for Fox to dominate late night shows the way FNC dominates cable news.

As they say in the industry, stay tuned.     

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