NEW YORK — He may cringe at the thought, but is Stephen Colbert the late-night man for the Trump administration?
Colbert’s “Late Show” won the late-night ratings competition last week over NBC’s Jimmy Fallon for the first time since Colbert replaced David Letterman in September 2015, the Nielsen company said.
The margin was so small — 2.77 million average for CBS, 2.76 million for NBC — that CBS didn’t want to jinx its good fortune by making an executive available to talk about it on Tuesday. But it reflects a turnaround for the troubled show since former “CBS This Morning” executive Chris Licht was put in charge backstage and steered the show toward more topical content to match the times.
The “Late Show” won two of the five nights on which Colbert and Fallon went head-to-head last week, but it was enough to win the week. One night was Tuesday, when Colbert’s former Comedy Central pal Jon Stewart came by to offer an impersonation of President Trump.
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The other win was Monday, Colbert’s first night back from a week’s vacation and his first show, he noted, in the Trump era. His monologue that night recorded 4 million views on YouTube, CBS said.
“You’ve got to give the guy credit,” Colbert said of the new president. “He gets a lot of stuff undone.”
It may be Colbert’s first weekly win in over a year, but he’s been creeping closer in the ratings since the election. Fallon still wins among youthful demographics, Nielsen said.
Another late-night story may temper NBC’s disappointment. “Saturday Night Live” is booming, with its most-watched season in 22 years, and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last weekend became an instant classic. Only three prime-time shows last week got better ratings among the 18-to-49-year-old age group than “Saturday Night Live.”
Meanwhile, President Trump lost a ratings competition to his predecessor. Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly on the Super Bowl preview show was seen by 12.2 million people on Sunday, compared to the 14.9 million who watched CBS’ Gayle King interview former President Obama on last year’s show. In fairness to Trump, Fox aired the interview 25 minutes earlier in the pregame show than CBS, which showed it closer to kickoff.
The Super Bowl gave Fox the easy win in prime time. The network averaged 29.7 million viewers in prime time, followed by CBS with 6 million, ABC with 4 million, NBC with 3.7 million, Univision with 1.8 million, the CW with 1.6 million, Telemundo with 1.4 million and ION Television with 1.2 million.
Fox News Channel dominated the cable networks, averaging 3.15 million viewers in prime time. HGTV had 1.58 million, USA had 1.55 million, MSNBC had 1.42 million and TBS had 1.34 million.
NBC’s “Nightly News” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.1 million viewers. ABC’s “World News Tonight” was second with 9 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 7.3 million viewers.
For the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 5, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: Super Bowl: New England vs. Atlanta, Fox, 111.32 million viewers; “Super Bowl Post Game,” Fox, 61.08 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 14.66 million; “Superior Donuts,” CBS, 10.54 million; “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 10.13 million; “Hawaii Five-O,” CBS, 9.81 million; “Mom,” CBS, 8.71 million; “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 8.5 million; “The Big Bang Theory” (Monday, 8 p.m.), CBS, 8.44 million; “Criminal Minds,” CBS, 7.46 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.
This story corrects that Colbert monologue received 4 million views.