‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ has become massively successful in the three years since it premiered, due in a large part to its online audience. Considering the most-viewed ‘Late Late Show’ video has received a whopping 161 million views just over a year since it was first uploaded, one can assume most people have heard of the show segment called ‘Carpool Karaoke’ (and yes, it was the Adele round of karaoke that garnered all of those views):

‘The Late Late Show’ wasn’t the first program of its kind to create bite-sized segments that caught the attention of the online community (Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon have been entertaining us for years on various online platforms). However, one could argue that ‘Carpool Karaoke’ is actually responsible for the attention and acclaim that the ‘Late Late Show with James Corden’ has received and that this juggernaut segment has become a mandatory part of A-list artists’ press appearances.

Last August, ‘Late Late Show’ executive producer Ben Winston gave an interview with thedrum.com where he explained how the approach of the show is, “that it launches at midnight but ultimately it should be consumed how you want it – be it catch-up, digitally or on your phone.” Although the goal of show-related online content has always been to draw more viewers to the show, it is very rare that a program’s base audience is generated online and that online audience eventually becomes responsible for the TV show becoming a hit. Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon began with television audiences and then added to those audiences via viral content, but Corden started his show on CBS as a relative unknown in the US and a huge number of people are now tuning in because they saw ‘Carpool Karaoke’ online and wanted more. This is a new model for growing a TV show’s viewership.

Of course, ‘Carpool Karaoke’ is now a stand-alone show (much like Lip Sync Battle is a spin-off of the popular Jimmy Fallon segment), but James Corden is still very much in the driver’s seat (literally), and the new carpools still act as a gateway to the ‘Late Late Show’. Using data from Tubular, we took a look at which ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segments had the most success online and why. We can also confirm what other ‘Late Late Show’ content has hit online and try and understand why that content has been so successful.

‘Carpool Karaoke’ Kings and Queens

4 of the top 10 most viewed videos uploaded by ‘The Late Late Show’ to YouTube in the last 90 days are ‘Carpool Karaoke’ clips. 3 of those 4 carpools are the 3 most viewed ‘Late Late Show’ videos uploaded to YouTube in the last 90 days. The Harry Styles Carpool Karaoke, uploaded on May 19, was the most viewed ‘Late Late Show’ segment uploaded to YouTube in the last 90 days with a whopping 22.2 million views. However, Ed Sheeran’s appearance on ‘Carpool Karaoke’, which was uploaded to YouTube on June 6, received 18.9 million views in just 5 days and is already in second place.

Katy Perry’s ‘Carpool Karaoke’, which was uploaded to YouTube on May 22, has received 12.5 million views.

If we go back and look at the most popular ‘Late Late Show’ videos uploaded to YouTube in the last 365 days, 9 of the top 10 most viewed clips are for ‘Carpool Karaoke’. Selena Gomez’s carpool, uploaded on June 20, 2016, is the most viewed ‘Late Late Show’ video uploaded to YouTube in the last 365 days with a staggering 70.6 million views followed by the Bruno Mars Carpool Karaoke, uploaded on December 13, 2016 with 61.3 million total views. Interestingly, the Selena Gomez carpool received 35.5 million views in the first 30 days from when it was uploaded and the Bruno Mars carpool received 36 million views in its first 30 days online. Not only that, the Selena Gomez carpool had 2.1 times the average engagements per view rate in its first 30 days online and the Bruno Mars carpool had 2.8 times the average engagements per view rate in its first 30 days online. This means people were not only watching these videos on YouTube, they were engaging with them and having genuine reactions.

Who is Watching ‘Carpool Karaoke’?

Of course, all of these top artists mentioned are very, very famous, but breaking down the demographics of ‘The Late Late Show’s’ audience helps us to understand why these specific singers rose to the top. ‘The Late Late Show’s’ online viewership is 55% male, with 26% of that 55% falling into the 18-24 year old age group. 16% of that 55% male viewership is 25-34 years old. The 45% female online viewership for ‘The Late Late Show’ skews a bit younger, with 22% of that 45% in the 18-24 year old age group and 12% of that 45% falling into the 13-17 year old age group. So if the bulk of the show’s online audience is aged 13 to 34, it makes sense that the artists who generate the most views and engagement are those that appeal to young people and fall into that age range themselves. Online audiences are responding to artists they recognize who currently have hits in the top 40.

However, you don’t have to be a current top 40 musician to be successful on ‘Carpool Karaoke’. Just look at Michelle Obama’s clip featuring Missy Elliott, uploaded on July 20, 2016, which received 56.4 million total views and was the third most viewed ‘Late Late Show’ video uploaded to YouTube in the last 365 days. 39.9 million of the former first lady’s carpool views occurred in the first 30 days from when the segment was uploaded and the video received 2.5 times the average engagements per view rate in its first 30 days online. A first lady knows how to get those views and generate engagement.

Another hugely popular ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment featured Mariah Carey. The video, entitled ‘All I Want for Christmas’ was uploaded to YouTube on December 15, 2016 and received 30.8 million total views with 27.9 million of those views occurring in the first 30 days since the video was uploaded. This video also received a TON of engagement, with the engagements per view rate being 4 times the average rate in the video’s first 30 days online. Holiday-related content is a great, evergreen way to get views and generate engagement online. While Mariah Carey is still relevant as an artist today and had a residency in Vegas to promote on ‘The Late Late Show’, her song “All I Want for Christmas” is now an integral part of many people’s holiday canon, it was clever of the show to focus on this tune. ‘Carpool Karaoke’ has found a way to showcase current events and artists via seasonal or evergreen vehicles and vice versa.

If You Like Carpool Karaoke, You’ll Love…

Although ‘Carpool Karaoke’ has become a household brand, it’s not the only type of ‘Late Late Show’ content that’s gone viral. ‘Crosswalk the Musical: Beauty and the Beat‘ was the fourth most viewed ‘Late Late Show ‘video uploaded to YouTube in the last 90 days with 7.9 million views total and 6.5 million of those views occurring in the first 30 days from when the video was uploaded. This video also received 4.4 times the average engagements per view rate in its first 30 days online. James Corden performing the musical with actors from the live action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in the middle of a busy LA crosswalk means this video does technically fall into the prank/comedy video category, which is wildly successful on online platforms.

Not only that, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a Disney movie that plays to both the 13-17 demographic and Millennials who are nostalgic for the animated classic from the early 1990s. So combining the movie elements with a video type that’s been proven to work online is a surefire way to fin success with ‘The Late Late Show’s’ social media audience.

James Corden: Key to Engagement

Something that does run throughout these popular clips though is the integration of music. James Corden began his career as a singing theater actor, so music and performance are typically part of his sketches. Combine that with a celebrity and a funny, relevant gimmick and Corden seems to have his recipe for success, both in TV and online. Take the fifth most viewed ‘Late Late Show’ video uploaded to YouTube in the last 90 days. This segment, in which James Corden and boy band member turned solo artist Harry Styles can’t help singing in inappropriate circumstances (like performing surgery), was uploaded on May 17th and already has 7 million views.

Another perfect example of combining celebrity, comedy and current events is the segment ‘The Late Late Show’ uploaded to YouTube on April 4th featuring James Corden acting as Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry’s new life coach. The NBA playoffs began on April 15th, so this was a perfect time to upload a video featuring the star player, . The video received 6.7 million total views with 5.8 million of those views occurring in the first 30 days from when the segment was uploaded. The clip also had 2.5 times the average engagements per view rate on YouTube in its first 30 days online. This displays the show thinking about different areas of interest online, like sports, but still working from what they know, which is James Corden performing in a comedic video.

If we take a look at the most viewed ‘Late Late Show’ videos uploaded to YouTube in the last 365 days, we can also see content that’s similar to ‘Carpool Karaoke’ but also offers something unique. The 9th most viewed video uploaded to YouTube in the last 365 days is a classic rap battle skit known as “Drop the Mic” featuring Corden, Cara Delevingne, and Dave Franco. This video received a total of 21 million views with 10.6 million of those views occurring in the first 30 days from when the video was uploaded. The video also had 2.3 times the average engagements per view rate on YouTube. Again this ‘Late Late Show’ clip has all the elements necessary for online success: two hip, young celebrities promoting soon-to-be-released movies, music and performance in the form of a rap battle, and comedy in the funny disses Corden, Delevingne and France come up with for one another.

One could say that ‘The Late Late Show’ has come up with a clear formula for online success. However, this would be selling the brilliance of these social videos short, because this is an ever evolving formula. Yes, ‘Carpool Karaoke’ became the basis for what other potential viral hits featuring James Corden would be, but the show is thinking just like any smart brand should. They understand the talent that they have in their host and they allow him to play to his strengths. They also understand that online platforms are different from television in that a straightforward interview won’t play the same way via social media and the show needs to do something different to bring out the personalities of celebrity guests. Finally, ‘The Late Late Show’ understands their online audience in that it’s mostly young people who want to see their favorite celebrities doing “regular stuff” like riding around in cars singing along to hits.

An August, 2016 article in the Guardian also quoted executive producer Ben Winston. In the article, he explains how the internet tells him so much more than ‘Late Late Show ‘ratings, saying:

“The overnights just tell us who managed to stay awake. The YouTube hits tell us which bits flew.”

As far as specific segments or skits and how well they’re working, there’s no better performance indicator than success of lack thereof on an online platform. For ‘The Late Late Show’, ‘Carpool Karaoke’ went viral and the rest is history.