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…And Now Conan Beats Dave (Among Youngsters) Without Showing Up

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The late-night ratings for the week before last showed that a week of David Letterman reruns had beaten Conan O’Brien originals in total viewers, although the Conan originals still won in various categories of younger viewers. Last week, Conan was in reruns and Dave was in originals and… pretty much exactly the same thing happened: Dave won overall viewers, Conan won viewers under 55.

After the jump, a look at the numbers, which offer some good, bad and perplexing news for both camps:

* If Dave’s rerun win showed Conan hitting a ceiling among older viewers, Conan’s seems to show the same for Dave among younger viewers. When Dave was in reruns, he lost 18-to-34-year-old viewers 574,000 to 315,000; when Conan was in reruns, Dave lost the same group 598,000 to 336,000.

* The staticness of that figure, of course, is nothing for NBC to pop the champagne corks over, either. Making a week of original shows netted Conan 24,000 fewer viewers between 18 and 34 than in last week’s reruns. Conan’s margin over Dave in that group was actually 3,000 greater when Conan was in reruns.

* Thus Conan actually added young viewers among the 18-34 group while in reruns, and Dave added them the same week, when airing originals. Explanations for this phenomenon are welcomed. Perhaps Colbert viewers who decided to catch up on Conan episodes they’d missed earlier? (Shrugs.)

* In total viewers, Dave won his rerun week 2.95 million to 2.67 million. When Conan was in reruns last week, Dave increased his total-viewer margin, 3.4 million to 2.5 million. But Conan also won the advertiser sweet-spot group, adults 18 to 49, 1.28 million to 1.068 million.

* Incidentally, if you need any further evidence of how broadcast TV has declined as a mainstream medium: NBC’s The Tonight Show is now getting an audience of 2.5 million to 2.67 million, depending whether it’s in reruns. [Update: And yes, to be fair I realize I’m talking two weeks in August. It’s still striking that the franchise is now, basically, niche programming.]

* As Bill Carter notes at the Media Decoder blog, the striking thing is how little difference it seems to make whether either show is in originals or not. Conan lost overall viewers by a much greater margin when in reruns, but the vast majority of the difference was made up by older viewers, whom advertisers don’t pay for. Maybe original episodes are overrated? Maybe each show should just bank several weeks of shows and then call it a season? I smell a new network cost-cutting measure—someone get Jeff Zucker on the phone!

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