CBS seems to hope that tapping a new showrunner for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert can mean a difference of night and day for the comedian’s flagging late-night television ratings.
CBS (CBS) announced on Wednesday that it is moving Chris Licht—who had been running the network’s successful morning news broadcast—to The Late Show to serve as executive producer and showrunner of the program that Colbert took over in September following last spring’s retirement of long-time host David Letterman. Licht, who had been executive producer for CBS This Morning and vice president of programming at the network since 2011, will oversee all aspects of The Late Show‘s production going forward.
Other executive producers on Colbert’s team include the comedian himself, as well as former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, writer Tom Purcell, and producer Meredith Bennett, all of whom will remain with the show.
In a statement, Colbert said he is “thrilled” to have Licht join The Late Show and that he is “impressed by what [Licht] has done at CBS This Morning.”
Colbert got off to a strong start in the late-night TV ratings race last fall, but the show has since found itself well behind late-night leader Jimmy Fallon at NBC, who averages 3.81 million nightly viewers. Colbert has recently battled for second place in the network ratings with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, with The Late Show currently averaging 2.94 million viewers, ahead of Kimmel’s 2.43 million, according to Nielsen.
With hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually for advertising on network late-night talk shows, the battle for nightly viewers is an important one. While Colbert has managed to offer a mix of guests from different backgrounds—business, politics, science, etc.—beyond the traditional Hollywood realm, some polls have shown that his style, and political leanings, can be alienating to certain viewers.
CBS pointed out in its press release announcing Licht’s move that Colbert’s show is the only late-night talk show in his time slot to post year-to-year ratings growth of more than 40% among the important group of viewers aged between 18 and 49. But, some of that growth could be tied to Letterman’s departure, and the new Late Show has also struggled to attract online viewers as successfully as rivals such as Fallon and even CBS’ other late-night host, James Corden.
Correction, April 13, 2016: An earlier version of this article misstated Stephen Colbert’s ranking in terms of ratings among late-night television programs. Colbert is currently second, behind Jimmy Fallon, but ahead of Jimmy Kimmel.