If you haven’t seen the 1996 HBO film, “The Late Shift,” but have an interest in either late night television or the digital video wars, give it shot. It’s the story of how Leno and Letterman (well, more their entourages) tangled over securing “The Tonight Show” hosting gig after Johnny Carson stepped down.
Based on the book of the same name by New York Times media reporter Bill Carter, the film dug into the intrigue and behind-the-scenes dirty dealing involved in Leno being tabbed as Carson’s successor. The narrative, which holds true even more today, is that late-night TV is big business, and online video has become a powerful tributary of the river of gold that flows out of the sets of Kimmel, Fallon, Colbert and Seth Meyers. I bring this to the forefront based on AOL’s recent content play as well as some interesting data.
According to Horizon Media’s online research arm, Finger on the Pulse, 43% of adult viewers say they have tuned in to traditional late-night shows such as NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” or ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” That is twice as many as those who tuned into what it called “satirical news shows” such as “The Daily Show.” When it came to traditional talk shows, 48% of the respondents said they related to “accessible humor.” They also said they tuned in for celebrity interviews (42%), opening monologues (41%), “relatable topics and relaxed conversation” (31%) and musical guests (22%).
While not specifically stated, we can look at two assumptions — by adults, the survey probably means folks in the Gen X world and perhaps some Baby Boomers (at least those of us who can stay awake past 10 p.m.). On top of that, we can logically say that viewers are watching these shows in a linear (live) fashion.
On the other hand, it seems millennials can’t get enough of Fallon’s lip syncing and Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets,” but in a ready-to-eat online video form after the show airs. YouTube has been the primary source for this virtual watercooler content. For example, Kimmel’s recent installment of “Mean Tweets” (the one where Danny McBride tears up the set) drew more than seven million views. Sensing some magic, AOL, along with its commercial partner Toyota, got in on the act.
AOL and NBC announced NBCUniversal’s premium content will run across AOL On, the online network’s venue for original and acquired programming. You can bet Fallon and Seth Meyers will be prominently showcased as AOL attempts to compete with YouTube. While ad rates are rarely discussed publicly, it’s a safe bet that given the target audience for digital watercooler video 2.0 commands a pretty penny.
Which bets the question: just what is AOL’s video strategy now that it’s part of Verizon? The company recently shifted its focus from a holistic strategy to one in which each of its sub brands (The Huffington Post, TechCrunch) will take over their own video businesses — hence the firing of experienced TV exec Dermot McCormack. With Verizon all goosebumpy over the launch of its Go90 service, AOL’s video presence seems somewhat… vague?… scattered?… forgotten?