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The Nightly Show – did ITV’s primetime gamble pay off?

Shout! Communications
Shout! Communications
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By Alex Hesketh

Initially panned by critics and viewers alike, ITV’s first series of The Nightly Show could not be described as a roaring success. The show was a brave project; a different celebrity each week hosting live, and the decision to bump News at Ten back by half an hour are bold examples of this.

However, whilst it falls a way short of the show’s US counterparts, The Nightly Show has had a resurgence with online content and ITV should be commended for taking some big risks. In broadcast PR, we are used to identifying what ‘works’ on TV, radio and online coverage, and The Nightly Show represents a great case study to pick apart.

Let’s begin looking at the things that, arguably, just haven’t worked.

The writing:

ITV won’t have the army of strong writers to call upon like The Nightly Show’s American counterparts, but the format they follow is something they should be looking to replicate. Where US shows will create whole set-pieces on a topical event of the day, The Nightly Show failed to capitalise on relevant news stories from the day, bar a few throwaway one-liners. Live entertainment shows rely on the same principles as live broadcast news –  as a viewer I’d like to see it be as current and relevant as possible to avoid being ‘old news’.

The presenters:

A mixed bag to say the least. Beginning with David Walliams proved to be controversial decision – much as we love him, a top comedian does not necessarily make a top presenter, and feedback from viewers was that Walliams was not a natural in this role. Walliams claiming that reviews and plummeting viewing figures were due to the news being pushed back was also a poor PR move, as blaming viewers for being annoyed will never bring them back.

The other comedians John Bishop and Jason Manford fared little better. The most popular with viewers, interestingly, were Gordon Ramsay, Davina McCall, and Dermot O’Leary, for seemingly different reasons, and this is something ITV may wish to consider if they move forward with the show. O’Leary and McCall have previous form, live at primetime, and gave the show the professionality that is so key to the format of the big US chat shows. As for Ramsay, sheer star power and some well executed online content made him a success. He drew the likes of John Legend to the show, and the clip of Legend singing some of Ramsay’s famed insults was perfect for social media and online content. Should the show return, ITV would do well to streamline the changing of hosts to give the presenters hosting longer runs.


That said, The Nightly Show did have some positives which could see the show survive.

Online and social media:

Perhaps the biggest success of the show has been the content pulled from the show to share online. James Corden’s ‘Carpool Karaoke’ of The Late Late Show is a shining example of how entertainment shows can tap into the social media and online market, and certain clips from The Nightly Show have certainly taken off. Ramsay’s pull in the US was an inspired turn, and clips featuring him alone have pulled in over 10 million YouTube views in total. Bringing in a star with the on-air presence of Ramsay won’t be possible every week (some clips only have a few hundred views), but the fast-paced format of the show can provide plenty of short, viral segments that are perfect for online content. With over 40 million views across all formats, ITV’s next step will be to convert these viewers back to the TV programme.

The Nightly Show’s most successful online clip

As a broadcast PR agency, we are asked more and more to provide video for social media and online coverage because of these principles – here’s how we go about securing that coverage.

ITV’s decision as to whether The Nightly Show will return for a second series appears to be in the balance. Is the show a success? Not yet. Could it be? Possibly, with more topical writing, more regular hosts, and more viral clips to keep people talking about it.

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