Stephen Colbert’s special post-Super Bowl broadcast of “The Late Show” drew 21.1 million viewers on Sunday night, the first time a late-night host was given the time slot after the game.
It was the biggest audience ever for Mr. Colbert (and CBS’s “The Late Show”) and it will be difficult for him, or any late-night show, to hit viewership numbers like that again (David Letterman’s finale last year had 13.7 million viewers; Jay Leno’s in 2014 had 14.6 million).
Mr. Colbert had more viewers than “Elementary” in 2013, the show that CBS put in the post-Super Bowl slot when it last broadcast the game. “The Late Show,” however, had about 4.6 million fewer viewers than NBC’s “The Blacklist,” which followed the Super Bowl last year.
The crucial time slot — following a Super Bowl that drew almost 112 million viewers — gave Mr. Colbert a chance to reintroduce himself to a huge audience, five months after his ballyhooed debut. His first episode had 6.6 million viewers; he averages a little under three million viewers a night.
Since Mr. Colbert’s debut, he has gained little traction on his NBC competitor, “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon. Though “The Late Show” is No.2 for the season in total viewers and the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic, in recent weeks Mr. Fallon has come close to beating the combined ratings of Mr. Colbert and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel in the demographic.
On Sunday night, “The Late Show” was jam-packed with celebrities — President Obama (in a taped segment), Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Will Ferrell and Megyn Kelly — along with a steady beat of Super Bowl jokes and football skits. The reviews for the hourlong show were mixed.
Mr. Colbert went on the air at 10:54 p.m. He was followed by the local news and then James Corden’s “The Late Late Show,” which went on at exactly the time his show normally goes on: 12:37 a.m. He drew five million viewers, a slightly bigger audience than Craig Ferguson got for the post-local news Super Bowl slot in 2013.A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B4 of the New York edition with the headline: Post-Super Bowl ‘Late Show’ Attracted 21.1 Million Viewers . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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