Tuned In

Letterman Defeats Leno! Stewart Defeats Both!

  • Share
  • Read Later

Conan O’Brien‘s new talk show debuts on TBS next Monday, which is sure to raise memories of the whole ugly scene last January when NBC threw over O’Brien at 11:35 p.m. for Jay Leno. (As will the timely publication the same day of Bill Carter’s Jaypocalypse dirt-disher, The War for Late Night.)

But whatever you think of how that played out, NBC at least had a plan to stop the bleeding. It would pay Conan off, Jay would go back to the Tonight Show, and whatever PR fallout there was, at least Jay would do better than Conan and would beat David Letterman again. At least.

Turns out there’s a level below “at least.”

Jay, as I noted last week, has lately been finishing below Conan’s ratings in the 18 to 49 demographic (the rating on which ad rates are based). He’s been losing ground to Dave too, who last week beat Jay for the first time since the rematch in both 18-49 and overall viewers.

Well, we’re seven months into the Jaystoration—roughly the point at which NBC defenestrated Conan—and as Jay says, this business is all about whether you make the numbers, so I guess we can expect NBC to dump Jay in [looks at watch]…

I kid! That will totally never happen. Because Jay just needs time for audiences to discover him in his new time slot. He has so much room to grow!

[Update: OK, so the silver lining for NBC? They may be in no better shape at 11:35, but thank goodness The Jay Leno Show is out of the 10 p.m. hour—those scripted dramas may be more expensive, but at least they pull higher ratings! Wait… what? (The last touch that would make this whole situation perfect would be for Jay’s camp to start blaming their lousy lead-ins.)]

In any case, Dave may not have so much to crow about either, because it turns out that last month, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show beat both his and Jay’s shows in 18-to-49 viewers, the first time any late night show other than those two has won the month for at least a decade. (Stewart does not compete directly against either show, airing at 11 p.m., but that can’t be much consolation.)

An excerpt from the release sent by Comedy Central follows. One thought: looking down it, it may be surprising how relatively small are the late-night audiences that determine where they make their ad money, and how little difference in numbers separates many of the shows. The difference between Dave and Jimmy Fallon, say—400,000 viewers in the demo.

And one more thought: how will Conan’s entry affect all this? Late-night is not a zero-sum game; Conan may get viewers that are not watching any other talk show. But surely some of his viewers will come from other 11:00-midnight competition—some of whom, perhaps, went to David Letterman in the meantime after Conan left The Tonight Show. What irony if, after all this, Conan O’Brien ends up helping Jay Leno out.

Here are those October numbers:




Historically dominant among young men and young adults, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ” finished the month of October as the #1 late night talk show among Adults 18-49. This extraordinary achievement marked the first time that any late night talk show other than “The Tonight Show” or “Late Night with David Letterman” has claimed the top spot in this key demographic, dating back to at least 2000.

Late Night Talk Shows – October 2010 (ranked on A18-49 Delivery, most current data*)
1. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” – 1.3 million viewers
2. “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – 1.2 million viewers
3. “Late Show with David Letterman” – 1.2 million viewers
4. “The Colbert Report” – 900,000 viewers
5. “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” – 800,000 viewers
6. “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” – 700,000
7. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” – 700,000
8. “Chelsea Lately” – 650,000
9. “Lopez Tonight” – 450,000

*(L+7D thru 10/18, L+SD for the rest of the month)

In addition:
· “The Daily Show” attracts more Adults 18-34 than any other late night talk show on air now.
· “The Daily Show” attracts more Men 18-34 than any other late night talk show for 5 years running.
· “The Daily Show” attracts more Adults 18-24 than any other late night talk show and has since 2007.
· “The Daily Show” attracts more Men 18-24 than any other late night talk show and has since 2004.