As Letterman prepares for his final show on Wednesday after 22 years of CBS, and 33 years in total, the network is pitching advertisers on the notion that his replacement, Stephen Colbert, can win over millennials. Though Letterman has been being showered with praise over the past month, young people have been mostly flocked to his late-night rivals Jimmy Fallon on Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC and Jimmy Kimmel at Disney's (DIS) ABC.
To appease advertisers, Colbert will need to demonstrate that he can entertain young people without making politics the center of his conversation as he did for the Colbert Report on Viacom's (VIAB) Comedy Central.
"Stephen Colbert is going to have to prove himself as a fun-to-be-with mensch," said CEO Dick Wechsler of direct marketing agency Lockard & Wechsler Direct.
Colbert has to do more than just retain Letterman's audience, he needs to grow it when he starts a new version of Late Show in September. Right now, Late Show is getting a bump in viewers from people tuning in just to watch Letterman's final episodes. For the week of April 27, the show had a weekly average of some 3.25 million viewers over the age of 2, among live and same-day DVR watchers, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was up from a weekly average of 2.8 million viewers one year prior.