How “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” used YouTube to maximize it’s audience

It’s time for IronViz again. And this round, Tableau Public has asked us to tackle a topic from the Silver Screen and according to the official rules, you must use data related to movies, TV series or TV shows.

Well, okay. That’s what I’ll do. Thus begins the idea phase. I had a few initial ideas:

  • Seinfeld
  • The Wire
  • Tackling the IMBD 5000
  • and a few others

Then Monday morning, the idea came to me as I watched the most recent YouTube clip of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about the “Border Patrol.”

After the segment was over I noticed a couple things:

  • The clip was uploaded the same day as the original broadcast
  • The clip already had several MILLION views

This piqued my interest

  • “Do they always upload clips the same day of broadcast?”
  • “How many views do they average for each clip?”
  • “How many more YouTube views do they get compared to TV viewers?”

So I headed to my favorite “list” hub; Wikipedia. And sure enough, they had a list of every episode as well as the Neilsen derived television viewers for each. I quickly scraped that data using my favorite web data scraper,

Then I headed back to YouTube and scraped the officially uploaded clips. I’m sure that if you tried, you could find every second of each show but for this project, I wanted to keep it limited to the official YouTube channel for my analysis

Thankfully, when you scrape with you also get the associated URL with each row. So pretty quickly, I had each episode and each associated clip complete with URLs.

Once I got into Tableau, I quickly learned that there were multiple clips per episode in the early days of the series. Was this intentional? I think so. It only makes sense that if you would like to accumulate as many views and subscribers, then you release as much as possible in hopes of virality.

So, for my IronViz Silver Screen entry, I visualize the story how “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” built its brand and maximized its audience by using YouTube.

Below is a screenshot, please click here to view the interactive version.

Last Week Tonight

That blank rectangle is a web object element that allows you to view any clip from within the viz.

I think this viz tells an intriguing story of how to maneuver around the confines of limited television viewership. What’s even more interesting is that while the majority of clip views far exceed the television views, there are a select few that do not. Why? Maybe that’s something for another day.

Regardless, I think this viz is engaging and draws you in and could encourage the user to watch a few clips. That’s my hope anyway.

Until next time!


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