Jun 4, 2009

The War on Late Night

Conan, Night Three: Ratings Down, Tweets Up

Three nights in, Conan O'Brien is still dominating late-night-- but his margin of victory is, predictably, shrinking.

Wednesday's "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" earned a 4.3 rating/11 share in Nielsen's metered markets. That easily topped CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman" (2.8/7) and ABC's combo of "Nightline" (2.7/6) and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (1.2/4).

But here's where the nattering nabobs will start...na-bobbing.

Conan dropped another (roughly) 15 percent from Tuesday to Wednesday. And his Wednesday number was up just 10 percent over Jay Leno's second quarter average as host of "Tonight."

So, yes, the late night race is tightening. Rubberneckers who came to Monday and Tuesday night's shows have started paying attention to their own late night lanes again, with some deciding, "There's nothing to see here, I'm gonna move along."

And yet, as NBC notes, O'Brien has still dramatically expanded his audience (he's up 65 percent over what his final "Late Night" earned). Buzz for the show is also good, with O'Brien-related postings accounting for half the trending topics on Twitter at one point Wednesday.

(OK, I admit the Trending Topics on Twitter bullet point is already becoming annoying when used by publicists to explain away disappointing Nielsen data. But since NBC didn't include it in its official ratings spin, I'm going to include it. Cope.)

The most important thing to remember about these early ratings: They're household numbers, not demos. O'Brien may very well be turning off some older fans of "Tonight," but if he's bringing in new eyeballs (of any age), NBC will be very happy.

That demo information, by the way, is set to be released a week from today.



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