Stephen Colbert took a major pay cut to host The Late Show on CBS.
You would automatically assume that Stephen Colbert is the highest paid late night show host in TV history with all of the news, magazine covers, and promotions surrounding David Letterman replacement.
But, you are wrong.
According to reports, Stephen Colbert is only making $4.6 million per year for a three-year-deal with CBS. That would be a major decrease from the 51-year-old entertainer's reported $6 million salary at the end of his tenure on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
That would put Colbert on the low end of the late night salary spectrum.
Jimmy Fallon takes home a reported $11 to $12 million as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show; Jimmy Kimmel earns $10 million for Jimmy Kimmel Live!; and Conan O’Brien enjoyed a $12 million salary last year as host of Conan on TBS. Then there are the retired titans: before turning over their shows, David Letterman made $30 million some years as host of The Late Show, while Jay Leno took home $20 to $25 million a year on The Tonight Show.
If you compare it to Johnny Carson's $25 million dollar deal in the 1980s, Stephen Colbert's Late Show deal is chump change. Especially when you adjust for inflation, which is about $72 million.
While the move to CBS will defintely increase Stephen Colbert's popularity, Colbert will first have to prove he has the feet big enough to fill David Letterman's shoes.
Stephen Colbert's spot in the lineup is incredibly important for CBS. CBS is counting on Stephen Colbert to create viral content on a nightly basis, which is a tough job for any entertainer.
With ad buyers coveting a younger demographic, there’s increased pressure on all late-night hosts to create TV that not only attracts live views but also produces hits the next day on social media platforms, Fallon’s celebrity lip-syncing segments and John Oliver’s breakdown of cultural issues on Last Week Tonight being prime examples. On Comedy Central, Colbert could be counted on to deliver funny, engaging segments with a political punch that appealed to college grads constantly refreshing their Twitter feeds; on CBS, it’s unclear how that will play out (though Colbert will surely have some fun with the 2016 election).
What is interesting to point out is that CBS is completly relying on Colbert to make the network money. When David Letterman was a host CBS earned $597.5 million 2014.
But, CBS probably made a smart decision by choosing Stephen Colbert. An episode of The Colbert Report
had nearly 4 million online views, according to Comedy Central. That is three times his average live TV ratings in 2014. In addition, while David Letterman's key demographic was around 58 years old, The Colbert Report's
average viewer was 16 years younger, “the youngest-skewing audience of any late-night broadcast or cable show,” according to The Hollywood Reporter
The Late Show CBS
According to reports, CBS may have already won. A spokesman telling AdAge
that rates “increased significantly
” for late-night shows on the network this year alone. If Colbert can keep the momentum for the next 20 years, CBS has did their job at picking the best David Letterman replacement.