David Letterman is doing his final few shows at CBS before he retires.
Letterman lasted all these years because he appealed to a specific group of people who liked what he represented – anti-establishment, off the wall. It was even more so in his early days doing the show that followed Tonight.
When Dave didn’t get to be Johnny Carson’s replacement, he bolted for CBS with something to prove.
But the last few years it looked like Letterman had lost the edge. He’s old and gray. He’s slow. He doesn’t look hungry.
But it doesn’t matter because David Letterman got to do a late night TV show when it mattered.
Now -- not so much.
The bumbling idiots at Comcast NBC removed Jay Leno (twice) from The Tonight Show at the height of his popularity with the aging TV audience. Leno defied his age. In fact, Jay came off as hyper-competitive.
Still, it doesn’t matter.
ABC can get younger all it wants with Jimmy Kimmel but late night shows are still over.
Conan was a misfit and he still is with his cable show.
Jimmy Fallon is too slick by a mile for the aging TV audience and even he knows it, which is why Fallon is more of a hit on YouTube than on the boob tube.
And Stephen Colbert?
He can hit it out of the park and Colbert can’t turn around a genre that is dying along with primetime network TV. Thank God he’s making a lot of money to try.
The cause is Millennialitis.
What we’re seeing is not just a passing of the late night torch, but the extinguishing of the late night torch.
Younger audiences don’t watch late night hosts from bed through their toes. They now have an iPad in their hands.
And this is what media people including our friends practicing the lost art of radio fail to fully grasp.
The old programming won’t work because the audience is moving out of the neighborhood.
Les Moonves should have signed Letterman to stay and keep the slot warm for a few more years AND signed Stephen Colbert at Late Night money to do a show on his new $5 a month app.
Only on the app.
And not a TV show like the previous late night shows.
A bunch of video bits that could be mashed up by audiences to use and send to others.
Radio is brain dead as well.
Imagine doing the same formats for 50 years with fewer personalities, no news, no contests and very little community involvement and thinking anyone under 35 is up for that.
Yet they keep doing it and it doesn’t matter.
It won’t work.
Radio stations have to become content providers.
They shouldn’t be doing one format on the air. They should be doing 20-25 different things for and in their local markets using all the media channels available from apps to over the air but not exclusively over the air.
The reason smart people do dumb things in media is because as with all of America the dumbest people get to make the most important decisions.
Equity owners who shoot for 5-7 years and then they’re outta here with their profits in hand.
So, as David Letterman wraps it up, you’re witnessing the formal end to late night shows that matter.
Younger replacements are not delivering younger, greater audiences.
And in radio where owners are content to be secretive, silent and shameful about their dwindling audience and revenue, imagine what radio could have been if even one of them at all had a pair of balls.
Doing the same thing when the audience has moved on is dumber than stupid pet tricks that Dave used to do.
The outcome won’t be pretty, but you hope and pray that someone will come along and say, screw it – I’m going to really reinvent content creation.
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