Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ Finale Sets Ratings Records Thanks to DVR Playback

Jon Stewart last Daily Show Review
Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central

UPDATE: With three-day DVR playback included in its total, Jon Stewart’s final “Daily Show” telecast has set program ratings records. According to Nielsen Live+3 estimates, the overall viewership jumped 47% from the previously reported same-night figures (5.1 million vs. 3.471 million). The previous high for the show with time-shifted viewing included came for the Oct. 29, 2008 episode featuring Sen. Barack Obama, which drew about 4.3 million viewers with seven days’ worth of DVR playback.

Last Thursday’s finale also has established all-time “Daily Show” highs in most demos, including adults 18-49 (2.6 million viewers).

According to Comedy Central, there have also been an additional 2.2 million full-episode streams of the Aug. 6 episode on the Comedy Central App, the “Daily Show” website and Hulu. 


Jon Stewart’s farewell helped his “Daily Show” capture some of the best viewership in the series’ history, with approximately 3.5 million viewers tuning in to see the witty host bid adieu to the program.

Last night’s fade was the second most-watched episode in the program’s tenure, according to “live plus same-day” Nielsen data released by Comedy Central on Friday afternoon. The most-watched “Daily Show” ever remains an October 29, 2008, episode during which Sen. Barack Obama paid Stewart a visit, which lured 3.577 million viewers overall. (See chart below, which illustrates that politics was the biggest ratings driver for the show over the years.)

An average of 1.8 million viewers between 18 and 49 (a 1.4 rating) watched the landmark episode, according to Nielsen, tying for the show’s second best rating ever — behind only a 1.7 rating for that October visit by Obama six days before his first presidential election.

Though “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” has been a popular latenight stop for many — especially liberals living on the coasts — it has never been a ratings juggernaut nationally. By comparison, the May finale of CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” did a 3.1 same-night rating in adults 18-49 and 13.76 million viewers overall, and Jay Leno’s final night as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” in February 2014 did a 3.8 in the demo and 14.64 million total viewers.

Stewart’s goodbye did stack up well against other cable latenight host departures like Chelsea Handler’s final crack at “Chelsea Lately” on E! last August and Stephen Colbert’s poignant finale on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” late last year.

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Comedy Central said an additional 1 million full episode streams of the August 6 episode were transmitted via its own mobile app, the “Daily Show” website and Hulu.

Review: Finale Brims With Warmth, Emotion 

More than most programs that air multiple times throughout the week, “Daily Show” sees meaningful ratings increases in DVR playback in the days following a telecast. For the week beginning July 27, for example, its average same-night viewership grew about 60% in “live plus-3,” which incorporates three days’ worth of time-shifted viewing.

Stewart announced in February that he would be departing “The Daily Show” after 17 years as host. He will be replaced by South African comedian Trevor Noah, who recently spoke about the pressure he feels in taking over the institution.

(Live plus same-day)
1.  3.577 million — Oct. 29, 2008 (Sen. Barack Obama’s fourth visit, six days prior to 2008 election)
2.  3.471 million — Aug. 6, 2015 (series finale)
3.  2.921 million — Oct. 8, 2008 (Michelle Obama’s first appearance, 27 days prior to ’08 election)
4.  2.839 million — Oct. 27, 2010 (Obama’s fifth of seven visits, and his first as president)
5.  2.806 million — Oct. 18, 2012 (Obama’s sixth of seven visits, and his second as president)
6.  2.785 million — Nov. 5, 2008 (Election recap; Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel as guest)
7.  2.628 million — Oct. 17, 2012 (statistician Nate Silver as guest, 20 days before the ’12 election)
8.  2.596 million — Oct. 30, 2008 (Bill Kristol as guest, five days before the 2008 election)
9.  2.576 million — Jan. 20, 2009 (coverage of the Inaugural Ball; Bishop Gene Robinson as guest)
10.  2.573 million — Oct. 27, 2008 (CNN’s Campbell Brown as guest a week prior to ’08 election)

Source: Nielsen