Stephen Colbert Will Host a Live Election-Night Comedy Special for Showtime—Probably

Late Show won’t air that night, so he’ll jump to sister network

Stephen Colbert's resurgence this political season will continue on election night, Nov. 8, as the comedian hosts a live comedy special for Showtime. We think.

David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime Networks, made the "half announcement" today at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

"I think it's going to happen," Nevins said. "Stephen wants to do it. I want to do it. The studio wants to do it. … It would be Colbert unfettered. He promised me he would say at least a couple of curse words, which is important to me."

Colbert is available that night because The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (which airs on CBS, which like Showtime is owned by CBS Corp.) will not air on Nov. 8, Nevins said.

"It's something I've been trying to get him to do for a while, and he woke up and said, 'Yeah, that's something I would like to do, that would be great,'" Nevins said. "He's not on CBS that night anyway, so … I just think it will be really fun."

Nevins credits the interest in Showtime's series The Circus, which chronicles the presidential election in almost real time, for giving him the idea for the special. "The Circus had way more impact than I expected, and … in political circles, is an important part of the conversation," he said. "And we want to have stuff that feels like it is culturally relevant, and it's really carved out unique territory."

Colbert was the "obvious" choice, said Nevins. "He's had a good time being more political" in his live post-convention shows.

This is the second straight day an election-centric live program featuring Colbert has been announced. Yesterday, CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller said Late Show will broadcast live three times in the fall: following the first and third presidential debates (on Sept. 26 and Oct. 19), and after the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4.

Beyond the Colbert "half-announcement," Nevins said, Showtime is "the clear No. 2" premium cable service in subscribers (both cable/satellite and digital) and profitability. That was a shot at Starz's No. 2 claim at the beginning of press tour, which was based on cable and satellite subscribers (where it does come in second to HBO).

Showtime's direct-to-consumer service, which launched last summer, now has more than 1 million subscribers "with no cannibalization of the base business," said Nevins. "It's been a big success. … We're significantly ahead of where we expected to be"

Showtime has shifted to a monthly series release plan to keep those subscribers continually engaged. Nevins announced two new premiere dates: Homeland, which was renewed by Showtime in June through Season 8, will return for its sixth season on Jan. 15, while Billions' second season premieres Feb. 19. 

The company's OTT subscribers are particularly interested in documentaries like The Circus, which "has thrived in an OTT environment," according to Nevins.

Two Saturday Night Live stars who were just let go from the show have landed on Showtime comedy pilots: Taran Killam was cast in Mating, and Jay Pharaoh will star in White Famous, which is executive produced by Jamie Foxx.

Nevins said the two actors had planned to work around their respective SNL schedules, but that problem no longer exists.

In Twin Peaks news, Nevins said the series revival still doesn't have an episode count, but "David Lynch is deep in the editing process," and the show should debut in mid-2017.