In the face of declining viewership and viral domination from Kimmel and Fallon, David Letterman will be retiring next year as host of the “Late Show”.
During the live taping of Thursday’s show, Letterman announced that he would be stepping down in 2015. Concerning the date of his retirement, he stated only that it would be in “at least a year or so, but sometime in the not too distant future — 2015, for the love of God, Paul (Shaffer) and I will be wrapping things up.”
While his retirement is no surprise – he’s been in the industry for 32 years – many have speculated falling viewership and the pure domination of his contemporaries in the viral web space might have something to do with it.
As host of “Late Night” at NBC from 1982-1993, and “Late Show” since 1993, Letterman was long the second king of Late Night, falling only slightly behind “The Tonight Show”.
Following the retirement of Jay Leno from “The Tonight Show”, however, and the subsequent replacement of Leno with fresh face Jimmy Fallon, the internet was soon taken in a firestorm of viral content. Fallon, an SNL veteran and longtime comedian, has expertly leveraged viral video via his own website and YouTube to promote his show and drive up viewership.
With viral videos of Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien (Conan), Craig Ferguson (“The Late Late Show”), and Jimmy Kimmel dominating YouTube, DailyMotion and Vimeo, Letterman’s “Late Show” audience decline reflected on his online presence as well, with low view counts and relatively low subscribers.
The fact is that late night television, like most television, has fundamentally changed – not everyone can afford to wait all night for a show that may or may not be funny, and after 32 years of the same personalities, viewer fatigue is a very real thing to consider.
Gone are the days of wading through a half hour of content for that single amazing sketch or skit – highlights on YouTube and other video sharing services are driving hype and viewership like never before, and if you can’t match it, your time is limited.
Celebs and musicians took to Twitter to react to the news:
David @Letterman announced he's retiring in 2015. It's been 31 incredible years. Television won't be the same without you, Dave.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 3, 2014
Damn, really wanna play Letterman one last time before he's done. It'll be a huge loss for music and musicians when he retires.
— Sondre Lerche (@SondreLerche) April 3, 2014
I think I could replace Letterman; should I send CBS my video about whales or the one with my vacuum that's powered by social commentary?
— Tim Helbig (@RaginBotanist) April 3, 2014
Even so, Letterman will be missed. He gave us some of our most memorable late night moments and characters, and he will always hold a soft spot in our hearts, if not our YouTube Favorites list.
[Photo Credit: The Late Show]