No Fife and Drum March for Leno: He’s Actually Behind Conan’s Ratings

Jul 2, 2010  •  Post A Comment

Interesting analysis by Bill Gorman of TVbytheNumbers on "The Tonight Show," Leno vs. Conan.

Gorman writes, "In the four weeks that Jay Leno’s Tonight Show overlapped with Conan’s on a calendar week basis (2010 vs. 2009) he’s finished behind Conan. However, that was during the “premiere” phase for Conan. It was the fifth week of Conan’s run in the summer of 2009 when he settled near his “hubbub free” ratings level of between a 1.0 and 1.1 adults 18-49 rating.

"If Jay can hold at the 1.0 adults 18-49 rating he scored last week (June 21-25), he’d tie Conan’s ratings for much of the summer. Stay tuned."

Gorman notes that what NBC hypes is whether or not Leno is beating Letterman, but that what’s more important is the show’s "absolute ratings (and their trend) which correlate to its advertising potential. NBC’s ad revenue is based on the ‘Tonight Show’s’ ratings, not whether it beat the Late Show or not."


  1. What an absurd storyline. Many shows on broadcast have slipped in the ratings, not because of specific program, but because broadcast is dying. People have too many choices, so broadcast TV is no longer fishing in a barrel. The bottom line is that Leno is besting Letterman in total audience, something that Conan got fired for failing to do. When Letterman starts beating Leno on a regular basis, then we can safely cluck our tongues at NBC. But not until then.

  2. Sad state of affairs to crow about a 1 demo rating — erosion or no erosion.
    These demo ratings are an outdated methodology. You want eyeballs, go for eyeballs. Save the demos for the more targeted, but trying to be more broadcasty cable networks.

  3. …don’t buy eyeballs, they buy demos. That will always be the only ratings currency that matters. People may talk all they want to about outdated methodology, but it’s called show business for a reason.
    Television programming exists to sell advertising, period. If there’s entertainment or dissemination of information that happens along the way, then OK.

  4. Okay, if demos are deemed as important, then is Leno no overpriced considering the target that he is delivering?

  5. Okay, if demos are deemed as important, then is Leno not overpriced considering the target that he is delivering? Conan had better demos but not total audience…

  6. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

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