Burnett: The Web and DVR Have Killed the Golden Era of Talk Shows

By Erin Griffith , written on July 26, 2012

From The News Desk

They had a good run of it, but evening talk shows, as we know it, are basically over, Rob Burnett says. He would know -- he's the CEO of Worldwide Pants, David Letterman's production company.

Johnny Carson had 65 percent of all turned-on televisions tuned into his show on any given night. Talk shows were basically a form of post-prime time filler. Now, thanks to DVR and even sitcoms, a late night comedy competitor, "no one will ever have the mantle that Dave [Letterman] or Johnny [Carson] had."

Even so, Burnett says doesn't think TiVo will be around in 10 years. Eventually all video will be on demand similar to Hulu or Netflix. "Once we head there ... that enables the distributors to once again control content. When you're watching on demand, you can't fast forward through commercials."

The Web especially has changed the late night talk show game. Conan thought this great tidal wave of young people on the Web would lead to incredible ratings for his show. That hasn't exactly happened. Even one of late night's biggest online hits, Sarah Silverman's "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" song, featured on Jimmy Kimmel's show, did not necessarily lead to more viewers for Kimmel. It was branding. Notable celebrity antics that go viral on YouTube, like Joaquin Phoenix acting insane or a bizarre Farrah Fawcett appearance, do little to boost viewership.

Most shows now are pulling their stuff off YouTube, he says, because they knew they need to monetize their content.

"One mistake Hollywood makes with the Web is that they see it's this amazing marketing thing and they forget that the product matters tremendously," he said. "But does that translate into people tuning into a television show? I don't think they do that for anybody."

Watch him discuss the death of talk shows below:

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