CTD Hopes Arsenio Can Win Younger Demo
ABC this month moved Jimmy Kimmel Live to 11:35 p.m. to directly compete with NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno and CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman. But that won't be the last big development this year in the never-ending and expanding latenight talk show wars.
This fall, Arsenio Hall returns to latenight with a syndicated show, hoping to recapture many of the viewers he had two decades ago when his original show became a syndication phenomenon.
“The primary audience, African Americans, is looking forward to him coming back,” says Joe DiSalvo, president of sales at CBS Television Distribution, which has cleared the show in 95% of the U.S. “The 35-54-year-old demographic remembers him. They like him and they’re also looking forward to him coming back.”
That's exactly the age demo that Tribune Broadcasting was looking for when it helped developed Arsenio Hall and made room for it in all 19 of its markets, including CW affiliates WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago and MNT affiliate WPHL Philadelphia.
“The median age on Tribune stations in late fringe is 43,” says Sean Compton, president of programming and entertainment at the station group.“Arsenio falls right into that sweet spot. A lot of 43 year olds were watching him 20 years ago. We’re catering to that audience. We’re going after our existing audience and hoping to bring in more of them.”
If Arsenio finds an audience of 40-somethings, it will be considerably younger than the viewers who tune into rival talk shows. Leno’s viewers, for instance, have a median age of 58, according to Nielsen data for this season. Letterman’s audience has a median age of 57. Kimmel watchers had a median age of 54 in his old 12:05 a.m. slot.
“The current latenight shows are not doing a very effective job reaching young viewers,” says Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media. “They’re all reaching a 50-plus audience. One reason Arsenio was so successful the first time around was because he attracted young viewers.”
Arsenio will be entering a TV marketplace that is far different than it was during his first run between 1989 and 1994 when the Tonight Show dominated with Johnny Carson and, starting in 1992, Leno.
In the fall, he will be up against not only Leno, Letterman and Kimmel on the Big Three broadcast neworks, but also some significant competition on cable.
Here's the late-night lineup with total Nielsen viewers and start times in the East for the week of Jan. 14:
- Tonight Show (Leno), NBC, 11:34 p.m., 3,486,000
- Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC,11:35 p.m., 3,017,000
- Late Show (Letterman), CBS, 11:35 p.m., 2,994,000
- The Daily Show, Comedy Central, 11 p.m., 1,816,000
- Colbert Report, Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m., 1,308,000
- Conan, TBS, 11 p.m., 1,006,000
- Watch What Happens Live, Bravo, 11 p.m., 804,000
- Chelsea Lately, E!, 11 p.m., 641,000.
If Arsenio siphons off African-American viewers for his broadcast competitors, it will most likely be at the expense of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kimmel’s adult 18-49 rating was a 0.8 among African Americans compared to 0.5 among all adults 18-49, according to Nielsen’s live-plus-seven-day ratings.
The other major latenight shows also over deliver black viewers but less so, with Letterman generating a 0.9 among African Americans 18-49 or 30% above his general adults 18-49 demo. Leno’s 0.9 rating among African Americans is 10% higher than his general audience.
Arsenio, which was sold in two-year cash-plus-barter deals (5 national minutes, 9 local), will mostly air coming out of late news either at 11 p.m. or 10 p.m. That means that in most markets it will get a half-hour head start on Leno, Letterman and Kimmel.
In the top 10 markets, Arsenio will air on nine CW affiliates and one MNT affiliate. Tribune owns the stations in seven of the markets. CBS will carry the show in San Francisco (KBCW) and Atlanta (WUPA). Sunbeam will fill out the top 10 with its WLVI Boston.
Even if Arsenio generates respectable ratings in key demographic groups, the show will likely stick around for some time, according to its backers. If nothing else, it is giving stations original content in time slots where many are now rerunning off-network sitcoms, some of which also can be seen on cable and online.
“We have a show that we feel good about, but we also have exclusivity,” Compton says. “When we rerun an off-net sitcom in late fringe, we’re competing with one or multiple cable runs of the show. We’re telling the industry, most importantly advertisers, that we’re back in the first-run game. If we have a good rating with Arsenio, there is a premium for exclusive, first-run shows.”
Like Hall’s original show, Arsenio will put an emphasis on cool, with hot musical groups and celebrities.
“When the show was on in the past, it was a party that you’d want to be invited to,” says Bill Carroll, VP-director of programming at Katz Television. “If they can bring that same energy to the show, it will be very successful.”