Late Night Ratings Watch: Conan Beats Dave– But Just Barely

Jun 9, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The late-night race is getting closer. A lot closer.

"The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien" beat "Late Show with David Letterman" Monday– but just barely. According to major market overnight Nielsen numbers, "Conan" notched a 3.1/8, just ahead of "Letterman’s" 3.0/8. It was easily the smallest margin of victory for O’Brien since he took over "Tonight" a week ago.

Letterman got a boost Monday from one of his most popular guests: Howard Stern. O’Brien, meanwhile, lacked major starpower, making due with David Duchovny and Anna Friel.

These are overnight household numbers, of course. NBC (and late night insiders) are looking to Thursday, when Nielsen releases the first demographic data on the new "Tonight." The hope at NBC is that while some older viewers might have left "Tonight" post-Jay Leno, younger viewers might be coming on board.



  1. This is the beginning of the end for Conan. NBC has kept Leno under contract for good reason, and there are already rumblings about him coming back to Tonight.

  2. i used to be a fan of conan during college days but he’s unwatchable now. his brand of college humor cannot compete with uncensored web humor. you have to have a very bland and safe middle america act to keep jay’s viewers.
    conan may want a younger demo but this demo is migrating to the web completely and watching less tv in general. he is the wrong guy and face for tonight show. they need someone with “blue collar” roots.

  3. I would much rather see David Duchovny than Howard Stern. No contest. DD is witty, intelligent, humerous not to mention drop dead handsome. HS is just ugly and vulgar.

  4. Conan’s funny in more ways than the other hosts. Maybe that takes a little getting used to for those that like the same old/same old, but I think he’s easily the most entertaining host out there. It’s the only show where I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen before I tune in.

  5. Conan is just not very funny.
    I loved Jay, Letterman is always solid.
    I don’t think Conan will be a good fit for 11:30pm. He should have finished out his time at 12:30pm. Jimmy Fallon is not good either. I was rooting for him.

  6. I can think of at least one scenario in which I would watch Conan (after the monologue): Conan has Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep and David has Paris Hilton.

  7. I hate Jay Leno.
    I really like Conan O’Brien.
    I love David Letterman.
    I will be a Letterman faithful until he retires. I will DVR any Conan shows I want to see.

  8. Go ahead and do a newspaper database search of the first YEAR-AND-A-HALF of Conan on “Late Night” and Letterman on CBS. This guy was on a 13 week-by-13 week contract, was getting ripped by critics, Letterman was ripping Leno a new one every night and everyone was mocking NBC because “boy, it sure was stupid to sign this nobody to that ‘Late Night’ show and Leno’s gonna get his @$$ kicked for the rest of his career!!” Well, after A WHOLE DECADE PLUS of Leno beating Letterman and Conan beating out whoever CBC/ABC put in front of him, NBC had the last laugh, didn’t they?
    I’m not taking sides, BTW, I’m just saying that the idea of “oh, wow, six shows in and Conan is tanking…ABORT SHIP!!!!” is laughable.

  9. Conan is not even close to funny, he is just strange. Sad thing is I want to like him because I have liked watching the Tonight Show for so many years.
    But Conan? He is just brutal and not funnt.

  10. Also not funny!

  11. “O’Brien, meanwhile, lacked major starpower, making due with David Duchovny”
    Boy, it doesn’t take long for the mighty to fall. Move from a mega-hit on Fox to a Showtime adult series, and they forget all about you.

  12. Howard Stern rules! BABA BOOEY! BABA BOOEY!

  13. When the novelty wears off, Letterman will be on top. NBC took a foolish, unwarranted gamble that O’Brien’s quirky frenetic style would woo younger viewers. My guess is that it won’t be enough to compensate for audience erosion at “The Tonight Show.”

  14. Conan said he knew he’d have to tone it down for the 11:30 slot. He has not and it’s the same crap that has made him unfunny for 5 years now and get beat by ferguson in the ratins. I liked him at one time but at some point they stopped writing material and just started being goofy. It’s funny to read people that think they are getting something out of his show that others are not. PimpBot has more witt than conan.

  15. No kidding. I seriously question the assertion than Howard Stern is a bigger star than Duchovny. And, at least Duchovny would know that the phrase is “making do”, not “making due”.

  16. One year from now – Leno will be back on the Tonight show and Conan will be paid off to go away. This was probably the stupidest move in television history.

  17. David is an admitted sex addict and you’re calling Howard Stern Vulgar?
    Grow up
    Howard stern is real and has over 20 million Listeners so obvioulsy SOME people think he’s entertaining.
    Go watch Oprah or Dr Phil because you’re too stupid to understand true entertainment DOUCHE!

  18. I have done a detailed analysis of Conan over the past four weeks at this address:
    I think Letterman and Leno will beat Conan unless Conan substantially changes his ways. As far as young demographics go, Conan might have an edge, but not by much. Young people have a lot of better things to do at 11:30 pm.

  19. I’ve been watching Conan since day one, and yeah I’m a fan, but in my book Letterman is still the king. Just curious..anyone else feel that since Conan moved to L.A. the show seems to have lost its edge? It feels diluted now, and I no longer have the same interest in it as I did when he was in nyc. It’s sad to say, but I think Conan is not going to have the longevity in that time slot…he should never have switched.

  20. I’m close to Conan’s age. I grew up watching Carson. I think Leno took the tonight show to a higher level. But I have to agree with PimpBot, after a while the goofyness of Conan is like nails on a chalk board. I wanted to like him. I think he’s a great writer but I can’t take it any longer. Time to turn the channel.

  21. Howard has nowhere near 20 million listeners. It’s probably closer to 5 million, if that.

  22. You’re way off. Look it up.

  23. everyone here is an idiot.

  24. When will the networks realise that this late night format is getting very very old.
    Conan is a snooze.
    better off putting him later when he can help me sleep

  25. letterman is an a$$. His kid’s a bastard and so is … Conan,funny guy and working his way up. Lot younger audience with lot younger host,Conan.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)