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Coronavirus Epidemic Presents Reinvention Opportunities for Late Night TV

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Widespread stay-at-home orders during the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) pandemic has led to higher TV usage in the U.S. according to latest Nielsen figures, TV usage is showing double-digit growth for the week of March 16 vs. the prior week.

Total TV usage — including live and delayed viewing, streaming and use of video-game consoles — now show that figure grew by 18 percent in the week of March 16-22. Ordered shut down of movie theaters, restaurants, bars and sporting events means all forms of entertainment content delivered through TV sets has become one of the few entertainment options still available. Nielsen’s total TV usage statistic measures all devices across all dayparts.

This means advertisers have a strong chance to put their messages in content that appeal to their hard-to-reach consumer targets. Nielsen notes the biggest increases in the week of March 16 came among teenagers (their TV time jumped 43%), and kids (< 12 years) watched 31% more than the previous week. Additional findings from Nielsen can be found here.

The outbreak has forced late-night-TV hosts into exile from their live studio audiences. Now, they are doing their at-home versions of their weekly late night shows. Fans get to see their favorite host do their daily news monologues because many are producing daily videos for their digital platforms, like YouTube and Facebook. A number of hosts have tried to repurpose their shows for the web with social distancing in mind. This week, the 11:30 p.m. major-network hosts — Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert — all did this. So did Trevor Noah, who has been hosting The Daily Social Distancing Show from his sofa in lieu of the usual Daily Show. Earlier this week, Conan O’Brien announced that he plans to attempt something similar, shooting from his home using an iPhone and welcoming guests via Skype in episodes that will start streaming March 30.

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced late night hosts to adapt which could end up helping to transform this genre format. Late-night talk shows, particularly on the major broadcast networks followed the monologue, various comedy bits and celebrity interviews in a 1 hour format. Johnny Carson is known for this current format that virtually every show follows.

Now each of these hosts are experimenting with how to package their unique talents, comedic sensibilities and DIY at home production to reach their fans is what makes this so interesting. Late night hosts thrive performing in front of a live studio audience and part of the job is to be nimble to address or react to a spontaneous act, weird interview exchange, and now, at home production glitches.
Here are some videos of some of my favorite home monologues.