Late night TV hosts reach beyond midnight for digital domination

Thu Oct 1, 2015 1:29pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Daniel Radcliffe raps the alphabet. Mariah Carey sings karaoke to her own hits. Celebrities read out nasty tweets about themselves. In the race to go viral online, U.S. television late night hosts are bringing out the big guns.

Wedged between YouTube celebrities, Vine stars and an Internet full of cat videos, the hosts of late night talk shows are putting a larger focus on becoming online sensations, creating meme-friendly content to draw an audience well beyond their tiny midnight viewership. (Graphic:

As entertainers compete for eyeballs in the cut-throat world of television ratings, having a strong social media presence can help lure advertisers not just to broadcast TV, but a broader range of online platforms.

"It's the holy grail, to be able to sell cross platform advertising," said Seth Shapiro, digital media consultant and a governor at the Television Academy, bestowers of the Emmy awards.

NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" currently leads the social media race over eight late night rivals - NBC's "Late Night With Seth Meyers," ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," TBS' "Conan," CBS' "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" and "The Late Late Show with James Corden," and Comedy Central's "@midnight," "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" and "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore."

Fallon, whose "Tonight Show" team just won an Interactive Emmy award for social media engagement, boasts 6.7 million Facebook fans, 8.3 million YouTube subscribers and nearly 30 million Twitter followers.

Those numbers dwarf Fallon's regular TV audience, where he is also ratings leader with about 3.5 million nightly viewers.

In the month of September, 30 million people on Facebook engaged in content and discussion around the nine late night hosts, with Fallon drawing 58 percent of that chatter, Facebook said.   Continued...

Jimmy Fallon, host of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon",  takes part in a panel discussion at the NBC portion of the 2014 Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California, January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas