While the effect of Donald Trump’s presidency on some late-night shows is still somewhat debatable, TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” is most definitely seeing a big bump in its numbers in the new year.
“Full Frontal” had been enjoying a slow but steady climb before the election in the 18-34 and 18-49 demographics, as well in total viewership: The series premiered on Feb. 8, 2016, to a total average audience of 914,000, an 18-49 audience of 453,000, and an 18-34 audience of 208,000 in Nielsen’s Live+7 ratings.
By the time the Democratic and Republican National Conventions rolled around in July, the show was pulling in well over 1.2 million total viewers (the July 20 episode garnered a total audience of 1.6 million, and 757,000 18-49ers). The last episode before the end of 2016, on Dec. 19, was up to a total audience of 1.32 million, and 579,000 18-49ers.
The show returned on Jan. 11, a little more than a week before Trump’s inauguration, to an audience of 2.11 million, of which 979,000 were in the 18-49 demo and 385,000 were in the 18-34 demo.
The Feb. 8, 2017, episode drew an audience of 2.51 million, with 1.16 million in the 18-49 demo and 444,000 in the 18-34 demo. Compared to the year-ago series premiere, that’s an increase of 175% in total audience, 156% in the 18-49 demo, and 113% in the 18-34 demo.
But the jump between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 is what’s most interesting with “Full Frontal,” particularly when juxtaposed with the relative lack of movement in the 18-49 demo for Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” or Seth Meyers’ “Late Night.” (Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” demo ratings have slid from the last month of 2016 in the absence of NBC’s Thursday Night Football package.)
Colbert and Meyers’ shows have been praised for diving into political humor and fairly sharp criticism of the new administration, yet it doesn’t seem to be having an equivalent bump in the demo. Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” has also not seen much of a post-inauguration boost, and is now regularly getting beaten by Bee — Wednesday’s episode of “Full Frontal” brought in 766,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo and 1.44 million overall in Nielsen’s Live+Same Day ratings, while “The Daily Show” that night drew 512,000 in the demo and 977,000 total viewers.
And even when it comes to total viewers, yes, Colbert has begun pulling in more viewers than Fallon on a regular basis — but the increase in Colbert’s total audience is mostly a difference of two or three hundred thousand viewers. That sounds like a large number, but the key is to remember that more than 300 million Americans have access to these broadcast shows. It’s nowhere close to the difference we’ve seen with “Full Frontal” in just about every metric that matters.
There’s another factor that bears mentioning here: “Full Frontal” is not, technically, a late-night show. Its timeslot, 10:30 p.m., falls within the primetime boundaries, rather than the officially designated “late night” daypart that begins at 11 p.m. It also only runs once a week, as compared to the more daily routines of the other shows mentioned here.
That said: This is what a “Trump Bump” really looks like.