The Problem Apple Had with The Problem with Jon Stewart

"The Daily Show" ratings surge where they didn't for Apple...
Liberals Find a TV Prescription for Election Jitters: Monday Nights
Once a week, Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart are luring viewers back to basic cable.

Jon Stewart is back in the saddle at "The Daily Show" and his posse has followed him back as well:

Demand for tickets to attend Mr. Stewart’s Monday tapings is significantly higher than it is for other days of the week, according to two people granted anonymity to share details from internal discussions.

And the show’s ratings underscore that level of excitement. When Mr. Stewart is behind the desk, “The Daily Show” gets an average 1.7 million viewers, more than double the key demo ratings of his predecessor, Trevor Noah, according to Nielsen data that includes three days of delayed viewing.

The rotating cast of correspondents that takes over hosting duties every other day of the week are drawing about 770,000 viewers, Nielsen said.

Basically, this means Jon Stewart's WAR is 1 million.1 And perhaps the most surprising element there is just how poorly Stewart performed on Apple TV+. Sure, the show wasn't the same. And yes, it seems that Apple tried to muzzle him from talking about certain topics, foolishly. Still, even before that, the show clearly wasn't catching on, making it easier for both sides to part ways.

So that raises one of two points...

First, perhaps Apple/Stewart should have just made "The Daily Show" under a new name/old format. How about "The Weekly Show", for example (as the show was on weekly – just as Stewart's "Daily Show" appearances are now weekly)? Would Comedy Central have sued? That wouldn't have been very funny. But in response, Stewart/Apple could have renamed it "The Not Daily Show" or some such. Such a controversy could only have helped draw attention and ratings!

It's perhaps the case that Stewart specifically didn't want to do that. Clearly, he didn't want to do it daily anymore. But again, that's fine, it's working for him weekly now, clearly.2 It seems likely he just wanted to try something slightly different, just as David Letterman has done with "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction" on Netflix. But when it wasn't working for Apple/Stewart, clearly he wouldn't have been above tweaking things more into his wheelhouse as he's back on Comedy Central doing "The Daily Show"!

If only the two sides could have gotten along...

But also, second, perhaps Apple simply has a very real marketing problem on their hands with Apple TV+. There are several signs that point in this direction, from surveys to the fact that they just shook up that team, replacing the head of marketing for content after only 16 months. Stewart aside, the content as a whole, is actually very good on Apple TV+. They seemingly just need more people to know about it (and, of course, sign up to watch it).

Rolling out on Android will undoubtedly help. But will Apple follow Netflix, Amazon, and Disney down the ad-supported lane? A few years ago, I would have said "no way". But this is a different time for Apple with Services now the lone revenue growth bright spot for the company. Plus, their move into more sporting events makes a push deeper into ads inevitable.

Anyway, maybe time is helping as well. As it sounds like the new show Dark Matter is performing very well for Apple TV+. Perhaps not a Ted Lasso-sized hit, but if you can trust the third-party charts,3 it's resonating with viewers.

1 I guess technically not really 1 million, but you get the picture. He's clearly the MVP of Comedy Central again.

2 How long until Stewart's "temporary" title is replaced with a permanent one, a la Steve Jobs? Comedy Central would undoubtedly do this tomorrow. Would Stewart?

3 The ReelGood chart seems consistent but the JustWatch chart seems a bit all over the place, with Dark Matter already no longer showing as in the top 10. It's just not clear how accurate these charts are.