Look What Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert Exits Did to Comedy Central Ratings

Michele Ganeless is out as network president, and the numbers may explain why

Good luck turning this ship around, Kent Alterman.

Taking over for Michele Ganeless on Monday, Alterman, the new Comedy Central president, has inherited some pretty rough late-night ratings. Unfortunately for the man who is arguably Hollywood’s funniest incoming network chief, the Nielsen numbers are no laughing matter.

The flagship series “The Daily Show” is down a massive 38 percent in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic season over season — and that’s with the expected early sampling for new host Trevor Noah.

In total viewers, the show has lost 35 percent of what Stewart used to get (1.2 million versus 1.9 million). Yes, yes, millennials consume content differently, but … ouch.

For this story, TheWrap is using Nielsen’s “most current” ratings, which include seven days of delayed viewing where available. That said, these late-night shows don’t get a lot of catch-up tune-in, so it hardly matters which data set one chooses.

And in terms of seasons, we looked at Sep. 22, 2014 – April 26, 2015 versus Sep. 21, 2015 – April 24, 2016 — an effort to provide the best apples-to-apples comparisons possible.

That said, Stewart’s final rodeo was Aug. 6, 2015; Noah started Sep. 28 of the same year —  so there isn’t much seasonal difference to account for.

For the 11:30 p.m. time slot, the quick-glance results are even worse.

“The Nightly Show” has dropped 40 percent among adults 18-49. The comparison is somewhat skewed as Larry Wilmore didn’t debut until Winter 2015, giving him fewer episodes and a smaller sample size last season — our mathematical starting point. “The Colbert Report” concluded Dec. 18, 2014. Wilmore’s show debuted Jan. 19, 2015.

Among total viewers, Wilmore’s decline is 29 percent (696,000 viewers versus 975,000 viewers).

All in all, plenty of reasons to explain the need for new leadership to bring the funny at Comedy Central.