Why CBS Is Slotting Stephen Colbert After Super Bowl 50

Looks to put Colbert in front of Tonight Show viewers

CBS has invested a lot of promotional to its revamped late-night lineup this year, but next February, both Stephen Colbert and James Corden will get their biggest push yet.

The network said today that it would air a live episode of Stephen Colbert's Late Show directly following its broadcast of Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016, the first time a late-night show will get the plum post-Super Bowl slot. Following Colbert and the local news, CBS will then air a special Super Bowl episode of James Corden's Late Late Show, as the network looks to take advantage of the massive audience that the Super Bowl provides.

Last year, NBC ran a special live episode of The Tonight Show, which followed an episode of The Blacklist and local news. In 2003, ABC premiered Jimmy Kimmel Live following its coverage of Super Bowl XXXVII, but it didn't directly follow the big game.

"It's been a very big year in late night at CBS," said Glenn Geller, president of CBS Entertainment. "We're extremely proud of our two new late-night franchises, and we're thrilled to give Stephen and James this big Super Bowl Sunday showcase."

CBS likely has more to gain by slotting Colbert after the Super Bowl versus one of its prized scripted series such as Supergirl or a midseason launch. Despite the large audience that stays tuned in following the NFL championship game, shows that have aired in that slot typically haven't experienced a significant viewership bump for subsequent episodes. At least putting Colbert in front of viewers who ordinarily watch The Tonight Show—or even Jimmy Kimmel—gives the network a chance to convert them to a still a very new Late Show.

While Colbert has improved Late Show's ratings from the same time last year—when David Letterman was in the midst of his swan song—by 20 percent among total viewers to about 3.3 million, he still sits behind Jimmy Fallon's 3.8 million viewer average.

Not surprisingly, the younger and more social media-savvy Colbert has more than doubled Late Show's viewership among adults 18 to 34, and it has improved 60 percent among adults 18 to 49. Since Corden's debut in March, the British import has helped The Late Late Show gain 33 percent among adults 18 to 34. 

CBS will air Super Bowl 50 from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and has already said it's commanding a record $5 million from advertisers for a 30-second spot.