The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is an American late-night talk show hosted by Stephen Colbert, which premiered on September 8, 2015. Produced by Spartina Productions and CBS Television Studios, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is the second iteration of CBS's long-running Late Show franchise. Stay Human, led by bandleader Jon Batiste, serves as the program's house band.
Prior to Colbert's assumption of hosting duties, David Letterman had been host of the Late Show for 22 years, dating to his arrival at CBS in 1993. CBS had not had a regular late-night talk show for most of its existence prior to that point, with only one attempt (the short-lived Pat Sajak Show in 1990) between 1972 and Letterman's arrival. Letterman, who joined CBS from NBC after ending his eleven-year run as host of Late Night and losing out on being Johnny Carson's successor on The Tonight Show to Jay Leno, was initially competitive with his show's bitter rival, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; Letterman's Late Show, however, slowly experienced a decline in ratings over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, dating back to an affiliation agreement between New World Communications and Fox that resulted in all nine CBS-affiliated stations it owned or recently acquired switching to Fox between September and December 1994, relegating the network to lower-rated former Fox affiliates and independent stations in many major cities.
According to TV by the Numbers, in February 2013, the live-plus-seven-day ratings for Letterman's Late Show averaged about 3.1 million per show for the 2012–13 season to date. A year later, average viewership was down to 2.8 million. Late Show also had the oldest audience among the various late-night talk shows, which may have led to CBS' decision to pick a younger replacement for Letterman to compete with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In addition, Colbert's previous program did well among college students and young men 18-34, which are prime target audiences for late-night comedy programming.
On April 3, 2014, Letterman announced his retirement, with his final episode as host of the Late Show scheduled for May 20, 2015. On April 10, 2014, CBS announced Stephen Colbert as Letterman's successor, signing him to a five-year agreement. In contrast with Colbert's previous program The Colbert Report, in which he played a fictionalized version of himself, Colbert hosts the show (which retains the Late Show branding, albeit with the article "The" formally inserted into the title) as himself. On April 23, 2014, the character version of Stephen Colbert appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to announce that he has clearly "won television" and will be closing down The Colbert Report because he has met his goal. This came after the announcement the character would not be used after the end of The Colbert Report.
Several states and municipalities attempted to coax CBS into moving production of the program from its long-time home in New York City with tax credits and other incentives, including Los Angeles, New Orleans and Connecticut. On July 23, 2014, CBS announced that Late Show would continue to be produced at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York when Colbert takes over. Jonathan Batiste was announced as the bandleader on June 4, 2015, with his Stay Human band succeeding the CBS Orchestra as the house band.