‘Gutfeld!’ May Be the New ‘King of Late Night’ for Total Viewers – in Other Ways Not So Much
Fox News Channel’s “Gutfeld!” has overtaken the mainstays of late-night network television — including “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” — in average total viewers for August, the first time a cable late-night show has sustained a total-viewership win across an entire month.
“Gutfeld!” averaged 2.19 million viewers for August, beating CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” at 2.16 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. Trailing in total average viewers were NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” at 1.34 million; ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (on hiatus for part of August) at 1.14 million and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with 383,000.
“Gutfeld!” has topped individual days and weeks before, but August was a first for any cable show.
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“We believe we’ve found something unique in the way we are approaching comedy and I think the audience recognizes that,” “Gutfeld!” executive producer Tom O’Connor told TheWrap. “The success isn’t only a testament to Greg and his signature monologues, but also to the guests we have in addition to our regular panelists Kat Timpf and Tyrus.”
But comparisons between “Gutfeld!” and the broadcast network lineups are not apples-to-apples, with notable key differences. While “Gutfeld” gets the most eyeballs of any late-night show on TV right now — the old standard for the informal “King of Late Night” title held by names like Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and lately Colbert — the Fox News show is still middling among its broadcast counterparts in key demographics.
In the advertiser-coveted 25-54 cable demo, “Gutfeld!” came in third place for August (358,000); the Fox News show drops to fourth overall (222,000) in 18-49, the age group most important to broadcast networks and their advertisers. In the younger categories, the big winner for August was “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which led both 25-54 and 18-49 with 382,000 and 270,000 viewers, respectively.
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Though the numbers point to an aging audience for the Fox late-night entrant, that race is tightening, too. “Gutfeld!” has been surging in viewership since it was relaunched in April 2021, and has shown signs of life in younger demographics in the past.
For instance, on Aug. 18, a Tuesday, “Gutfeld!” won the night in total average viewers for the first time, with 2.1 million to Colbert’s 1.9 million on CBS. The Fox News late-night show also beat Colbert in the 25-54 demo with 434,000, besting the CBS show’s 423,000. Just four months after launching, Gutfeld also showed some strength with a younger audience that night: While Colbert won in the 18-49 demo, averaging 322,000 viewers, Gutfeld’s 281,000 reigned over Fallon’s 255,000.
But TV network insiders caution that the viewership comparison doesn’t completely square for scheduling reasons. “Gutfeld!” gets off to a 30-minute head start on the East Coast at 11 p.m., and is shown live from coast-to-coast, hitting much of primetime in some markets. Meanwhile the networks delay Colbert, Fallon and Kimmel for 11:35 p.m. starts in Western time zones, when fewer people are awake and watching TV.
But in some ways, the fact that “Gutfeld!” is on cable, with a smaller audience to draw from, makes the network-beating viewership numbers all the more impressive. And in August, “Gutfeld!” got nearly six times the average viewership of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (which airs in most markets at 11 p.m., to be fair).
“Gutfeld!” also doesn’t share all the traditional characteristics of a late-night variety show, with no regular musical guest, an in-the-round style and unabashedly right-leaning points of view from its hosts and guests. Though the apolitical late-night traditions of Carson and Leno are a relic of TV past, “Gutfeld!” spends more time talking about politics than the network shows — which plays right to the interests of the Fox News audience.
“We aren’t having celebrities on promoting some movie — we have comics and guests that are interesting to the audience, people they connect with,” O’Connor said. “When you tune in, it feels relaxed, comfortable and like you’re watching a group of friends — that’s what has made it successful. It reminds our audience of how they joke around with their family and friends. It doesn’t seem like this forced thing, and that’s how traditional late-night can feel at times.”
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One thing about the instant and growing success of “Gutfeld!” is certain — right-leaning comedy can, in fact, work. And while the question of whether Gutfeld is “The King of Late Night” may depend on your point of view, he’s being recognized as such in unexpected places.
Newsweek , Mediaite and scores of conservative news sites have placed that crown on Gutfeld already. “Real Time” host Bill Maher joined the chorus this week, saying to the HBO show’s panel: “There’s a new king of late night and his name is Greg Gutfeld.”
Last year, Maher suggested that liberal “craziness” has created an opening for “Gutfeld!” and sites like the Babylon Bee.
“I keep saying to the liberals, ‘If what you’re saying sounds like an Onion headline, stop,'” he said. “And that’s why — this is why there’s an opening for conservative comedy. Because when you tear down statues of Abraham Lincoln in the Land of Lincoln, ‘Land of Lincoln cancels Lincoln,’ it’s an Onion headline.”
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