NEW YORK — While David Letterman and Ted Koppel were harvesting all of the headlines over latenight TV programming this month, VH1 quietly stumbled out of the box in its attempt to create a latenight entertainment franchise.
VH1 engineered a powerhouse publicity campaign for the half-hour “Late World With Zach,” but in its first week (March 4-8) on the 11 p.m. schedule, the show managed only a paltry 0.2 rating in cable homes. That rating was 50% below what VH1 was getting for the same week in 2001 and also 50% down from what the time period averaged over the month of March 2001.
But VH1 was not discouraged by the poor Nielsens. “Historically, latenight programs have needed time to build an audience,” said a spokesman for VH1, adding that host Zach Galifianakis “has a unique style and voice” that may take a while getting used to.
The Los Angeles-based “Late World” features Galifianakis interviewing celebrities and introducing comics and musicians in a classic variety format.
But the slow start is consistent with VH1’s subpar Nielsen performance in primetime over the last year or so. The music cabler’s ratings fell 40% in the daypart in the last year.
Net is trying to walk a careful line between reaching an audience that’s slightly older than the typical MTV viewer but that has not yet taken on the responsibilities of parent and workaholic.