For most college students, news is acquired through satirical news shows hosted by comics like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, but that may soon be a thing of the past. With Oliver’s departure from Comedy Central last year, Colbert’s departure in December and Stewart’s departure recently announced, the network will be without their big stars and on their way to the reconstruction era of late night. I believe that in order for the network’s late night programs to be of the same success Stewart brought to the network, Comedy Central has no choice but to reinvent themselves.

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, Jon Stewart announced his decision on air to leave his Comedy Central comedic news program, “The Daily Show.” Stewart has become the highest paid host on late night with an annual salary of $25 to $30 million.

Now, 20 Emmys and 16 years later, Stewart has decided not to renew his contract, which ends this fall. It’s likely that his fan base will be looking for a new satirical news program on late night but if Comedy Central doesn’t bring something new to the table that meets the high bar Stewart has set, then those fans probably won’t continue to tune in to the network.

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

John Oliver, a prior correspondent on Stewart’s “The Daily Show” for eight years, was suspected to have been the replacement for Stewart had Oliver stayed with the network. However, Oliver left the network for his weekly news show, “Last Week Tonight,” on the HBO network which premiered last spring.

Six months after Oliver’s departure, Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” left the network in December after almost 20 years. Colbert will become David Letterman’s replacement as the host of CBS’s “The Late Show” in September.

Since Colbert’s show ended, Comedy Central has launched a new late night talk show to fill his 11:30 p.m. time slot, “The Nightly Show,” hosted by Larry Wilmore. So far, Wilmore has not been able to fill Colbert’s shoes.

According to the New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff and Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi, “The Daily Show” averaged 2.2 million viewers a night last year while The Colbert Report averaged one million viewers a night. The Colbert Report’s finale alone brought in 2.5 million viewers. Wilmore’s show, however, debuted to 963,000 viewers and has averaged 835,000 viewers a night in its first five episodes this month.

In addition, Ad Age states, “In the TV season from September until now, the network’s core 18-to-34-year-old demographic has declined 16 percent from the equivalent period a year earlier while total viewers have fallen 17 percent.” A decrease in viewers is not the only struggle the network has been facing lately. According to Ad Age, Comedy Central’s ratings have been decreasing in prime time, outside of late night.

According to The Atlantic’s Emma Green, a Pew Research study found that 18 to 29-year-olds were 40 percent of the audience of “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show.” According to the LA Times’ Scott Collins, Comedy Central is “the number one network in late night among young men.” Since this audience is hard to reach, advertisers pay big money to advertise during these programs, but not if the number of viewers and ratings are decreasing. The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie and Michael O’Connell report that in 2013 alone “The Daily Show” brought in $780.5 million to Comedy Central’s revenue.

As stated by LA Times’ Scott Collins, this added revenue allowed Comedy Central to take more risks on new shows. Without that cushion, Comedy Central will most likely resort to developing safe and cheaply produced shows — which I believe will be a mistake.

Although taking an experimental approach may be risky, it seems to me to be the only way to increase Comedy Central’s ratings, viewers and star factor. Whether Comedy Central decides to promote from within or replace Stewart with outside talent, one thing is clear: whatever the host does, it has to be different.

I believe that Stewart’s viewers will be on the lookout for a similar program. It has been shown that the younger demographic prefers receiving their news through a satirical tone. The steady decrease in viewers and ratings that Comedy Central has been experiencing over the past year is a message to Comedy Central that they need to reinvent their programs.

To sit another host at the news desk of “The Daily Show” with nothing but a substitute for Jon Stewart would be a horrible mistake. It’s time for Comedy Central to take a risk and revolutionize the satirical news programs they have become known for. They need to maintain their original programs while adding something new that their viewers won’t be able to ignore.

Even Stewart himself noticed the need for a new approach. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie last summer Stewart stated, “Look, there’s only so many ways that I know how to evolve it. I’m sure even at this point I’ve overstayed my welcome to a good number of people.”

The President of Comedy Central, Michele Ganeless, told the LA Times’ Scott Collins, “Comedy Central has always been in the business of reinventing itself . . . The brand has never been stronger.” But it appears now that the network may not be the weakest it has been. Stewart put Comedy Central on the pop culture map but he may very well be the one to take them off the map now that he has announced his departure to his devoted viewers. In order to keep those viewers, it is time that Comedy Central reinvent themselves once more and bring something new to late night.

Taylor Howe can be contacted at

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