MBPT Spotlight: Comic Conundrum—How Comedy Central Should Look At Replacing Jon Stewart

News broke yesterday that Jon Stewart, longtime host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, would be leaving the program later this year. The exact timeline of his departure has yet to be established, as Stewart himself said it “might be December, might be July.” Whatever the case, we have to believe that the network has known about this for some time and is already considering its options for the future of the show.

Interestingly, the two most logical choices to replace Stewart—Stephen Colbert and John Oliver—only recently secured their own headlining gigs, with Colbert set to take over for David Letterman on CBS’ Late Show and Oliver currently behind the desk at HBO’s Last Week Tonight. And, while former Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore would have likely been the next in line, he just started The Nightly Show at 11:30 p.m., so moving him back to TheDaily Show would require finding a new host for Nightly or replacing it altogether. Comedian Chris Hardwick, who hosts Internet quiz show @Midnight for the network could also be in the running, though that series has been on for more than a year and seems to be working well for them as is.

One thing Comedy Central is undoubtedly considering is bringing a woman to the anchor seat. After Stewart’s 16-year tenure, it would make for a refreshing change of pace and late night has been conspicuously free of female voices since Chelsea Handler ended her run on E! last year (E! announced plans for a new show with YouTube star Grace Helbig, though it is unclear it will air in prime or late night). If that is the case, current correspondent Samantha Bee would be the clear frontrunner—she has been with the show longest of any of the supporting team. However, the network may opt to go with someone more high-profile if they can make it work, and with Parks & Recreation ending this season, Amy Poehler comes to mind. Of course we can only speculate at this point, but I’m sure that whatever the case, Jon Stewart will have a lot of input in the selection process.

In terms of ratings, at this point we see no reason to expect a significant decline. When Stewart was on hiatus during the summer of 2013, Oliver, his substitute host, generated comparable numbers to the summer of 2014, when Stewart was back behind the desk. Indeed, there may even be an initial ratings surge as viewers tune in to see where the new host takes the show.

Brian Hughes is an essential contributor in shaping the television and programming analysis operation, and is a major force in Magna’s audience analysis groups’ expansion into emerging media platforms. In addition, he develops new products and strategies that drive IPG Mediabrands’ business goals, as well as expand the units’ suite of proprietary research studies designed to understand and address the biggest issues facing marketers today. He also supports the investment practices at IPG Mediabrands agencies, and leads the production of the Magna Value Index, a proprietary measure of audience attentiveness.