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The Old Watch Late-Night Shows; the Young Watch DVRs

Letterman warms up his NBC studio audience prior to the taping of a show in New York in 1982
Letterman warms up his NBC studio audience prior to the taping of a show in New York in 1982Photograph by George Rose/Getty Images

A week shy of 67, David Letterman says he’s ready to retire next year. Most of his audience of aging boomers is just about ready to do the same in their own careers.

Much like golf and professional baseball, the traditional late-night talk show has an old-people problem. The audience watching Late Show with David Letterman on CBS is, by and large, the same cohort who joined the host in 1982 when his show was new, with a glaring dearth of youngsters in the mix. The average age of a Letterman viewer jumped to 58.2 in the past year, up from 48.5 a decade ago, according to data from Horizon Media. That compares with 54.3 for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and 57.1 for Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, which saw its viewer age decline slightly over the past year since it was announced that the older Jay Leno would be departing from behind the desk.