That’s a wrap.
Conan O’Brien ended his short-lived stint as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” last Friday, yet University of Colorado students — even those who say they were fans — admit they rarely watched the late-night comic on TV.
“I feel like most of his fanbase was watching him online,” said Amber Klein, a senior advertising major. “No one watches stuff when it’s supposed to be on TV anymore, not even my parents. It’s all online or TiVo.”
This sentiment was echoed by many at CU and in Boulder who expressed regret to see O’Brien leave the airwaves.
“I didn’t watch nightly because I’m usually doing something else at 10:30 at night,” said Julian Ciampa, a 21-year-old CU graduate. “But if I missed something, I always looked it up. I have Conan’s site bookmarked.”
While the “Tonight Show” ratings fell under O’Brien’s tenure as a whole, ratings amongst the younger demographics were better than those of Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” According to the New York Times, the median age of “Tonight Show” viewers fell by 10 years, from 55 to 45, in O’Brien’s first month alone.
“I don’t have a TV,” said Alexandra Nichols, a CU junior. “I’d watch (O’Brien) on Hulu once or twice a week. I don’t even realize what network I’m watching anymore.”
This trend of online media consumption is not unique to O’Brien. Even younger fans of Leno indicated their preference for streaming shows online.
“I’d watch Leno online; he’s one of the best ever.” said Herschel Tom, an architecture major. “They have full episodes on NBC.com.”
This sort of shift in media consumption has become a bone of contention for many forms of media, according to Elizabeth Skewes, a CU journalism professor.
“It’s a struggle all media outlets are part of,” Skewes said. “They haven’t figured out the revenue model as far as how online audience contributes to dollars for the bottom line.”
As the Internet continues to take a more prevalent role in the diffusion of media with younger audiences, this issue is not one that is going away anytime soon.
“People are used to free content online,” Skewes said. “They’re going to YouTube and Hulu. How does NBC generate income off that?”