Late Night Television’s Takeover of YouTube

Late Night Television’s Takeover of YouTube

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There was a time when all of the secrets for how to capture an audience with online video were held by home-grown creators on YouTube. But as I have delved into my project for “Rediscovering Online Video” one thing has become clear to me. Late Night talk shows in particular have not only learned from those creators, but they are taking over the online video scene.

Late Night Television on YouTube: Billions of Views

The YouTube channel for Conan O’Brien’s show CONAN just passed the 2 billion total views mark this past month. That may sound impressive, but consider that Team Coco is only the third highest total among Late Night shows, with the leader in that category coming from The Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon’s show has accumulated over 4.4 billion views to date and of the 8 channels I looked into for what I would consider Late Night, they combine for over 28 million subscribers. While their combined total pales in comparison to PewDiePie, who has the most subscribed to channel on YouTube, it’s their recent view counts and ability to gain exposure that are the most impressive to me.

YouTube’s most subscribed to channel, PewDiePie, generated over 224 million views in December, “The Tonight Show” pulled in even more views with over 263 million in the same time span. To that, add the other 7 shows on my list and you’re talking nearly 650 million views on YouTube that can be attributed to the top late night shows in December alone.

Late Night Talk ShowYouTube ViewsYouTube Subs
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon4,394,566,914.009,812,734.00
Jimmy Kimmel Live2,729,622,590.007,190,142.00
Team Coco (Conan O’Brien)2,068,239,622.003,600,150.00
The Late Late Show with James Corden620,865,763.003,083,419.00
Last Week Tonight (John Oliver)513,224,439.002,671,234.00
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert222,489,160.00803,731.00
The Graham Norton Show192,646,831.00512,339.00
Late Night with Seth Meyers125,039,960.00350,294.00

How Late Night is Engaging Viewers on YouTube

To me, the most important thing that Late Night shows have done is package their content in ways that fit the platform. They aren’t posting their entire show on any one platform for viewers to consume. I’m going to focus on YouTube, but on every video platform where they are active, they post the most entertaining clips from their shows, trimmed down for easy consumption.

I’m constantly finding them on the front page of YouTube whether I’m browsing with my personal account or as part of the “Rediscovering Online Video” project, which omits any past viewing history. This tells me that they are either paying for space on the front page, or they are getting the right mix of views and meta data to propel them to the front page. Take the time to properly title your video, give it relevant tags and a solid description box. I can’t seem to scroll down the front page or the trending page without coming across multiple titles from at least one of these channels.

And this strategy seems to be paying dividends for the video marketing/advertising teams behind the shows. Not only is the content generating huge view counts (via paid promotion or otherwise), but viewers are engaging with it, which is arguably the more important metric. And according to exclusive data from Tubular, Fallon, Kimmel, and Corden are resonating with the public via online video, and are attracting enormous amounts of views, likes, and shares.

late show youtube engagements
Late Night Shows on YouTube: Views, Engagements, and Video Uploads between 11/09/15 and 02/09/16. All Data via Tubular Labs.

How Collaborating with Stars is a Winning Formula

Here at ReelSEO, we always talk about how collaborating can bring further success for creators and that’s all that these Late Shows do. Their entire format is built on collaborating with trending talent. Conan O’Brien just saw some great success in his gaming video with players from teams in the Superbowl and James Corden got a massive boost in views and subscribers from his carpool karaoke video with Adele:

Specific to James Corden, his videos are getting a boost not only from the talent he is working with, but his team recognizes which videos will likely see the greatest success and they post a primer video before they come out. This not only drives viewers to watch the original broadcast on television, but keeps dedicated online viewers coming back to see the videos once the final versions are posted.

TV Content and YouTube Best Practice

Tonight Show has apparently been reading the YouTube Playbook and it shows in both their views and subscriber counts. Much like the talented creators who pioneered the platform, the channel has a channel trailer, which is in contrast all of the other Late Night channels I looked at for this article except one. This helps convert casual viewers into subscribers and increases the likelihood that they see future content.

In watching The Tonight Show’s content, I also noticed that their videos always end with Jimmy Fallon in an end slate that points to a curated playlist of his best content, a playlist for further content from the same episode and a call to subscribe to the channel. As of matter of fact all of these Late Show channels finish their videos with an end-slate with calls to action and/or more content and a couple of them go one step further and have their host actually voice the end slate. I find these to be the most personal and compelling. Knowing that they took the time to actually voice their end slate shows they care about the performance of their channel.

Realize that these shows have whole teams behind them, pushing them forward. If you have a team as well, count yourself lucky. You may not be able to do everything these channels are doing. In the end it is and will always be about the content. There are things you can do to put mediocre content in front of viewers, but unless it is compelling on some level, it won’t catch on and will be a waste of resources. If all you do is focus on making the best content you possibly can, that’s step one.

These channels put out a lot of content on a regular basis. Take a chance with a new idea, you can never be certain which things will resonate best with viewers. The content that works the best for these channels is usually timely, relevant, in collaboration with a popular star and of course entertaining.


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