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."