Thursday, July 9, 2009

Late Night Ratings: Michael Jackson beats Conan

Yes, that headline is a bit misleading, but let's be honest -- there's no way "Nightline" would be scoring such massive ratings if it weren't for its relentless coverage of Michael Jackson's death. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

The New York Times' Bill Carter reports that the Tuesday coverage of Jackson's memorial service brought "Nightline" a jaw-dropping 4.8 million viewers -- almost 2 million more than watched a new "Tonight Show" episode. What's more, "Late Show with David Letterman," with a well-publicized interview with "Bruno" star Sacha Baron Cohen, scored 3.9 million viewers.

Last night, according to the preliminary overnight ratings, "Nightline" won a 3.1 share, despite dropping the wall-to-wall Jackson coverage (it did feature one segment about the late singer). Letterman had a 3.0 share, and O'Brien came in third with a 2.4, despite a solid lead-in from NBC's summer smash "America's Got Talent." (Viewer numbers will be available later this afternoon.) Conan did beat Dave by 38 per cent in the 18-49 age group, 1.1 to 0.8. "But that rating was well below what Mr. O’Brien has been averaging in his 'Tonight' tenure so far," notes Carter.

Carter also speculates that Conan's week off after a mere four weeks on the air might have hurt his momentum: "His last week before the break he had averaged 3.7 million viewers to 3.5 million for Mr. Letterman. Last week, with both shows in repeats, Mr. Letterman had 3.6 million viewers to just 2.4 million for Mr. O’Brien." Of course, the Wimbledon highlights that delayed the start of "Tonight" were probably responsible for Conan's lower ratings.

While Tuesday's "Late Show" featured Cohen in a rare appearance as himself, as opposed to in character, the actor will bring Bruno to the Ed Sullivan Theater tonight: he'll be presenting a Top Ten List in his guise as the gay Austrian.

Here are the average viewer numbers for the week of June 29-July 3, from ABC.

ABC "Nightline": 4,020,000
CBS "Late Show" repeats: 3,580,000
NBC "Tonight" repeats (delayed due to Wimbledon highlights): 2,420,000


  1. Anonymous said...

    So - would anyone say that Conan's a success thus far? I think it's safe to say he's not a smashing success.

  2. Talk Show News said...

    Conan is bringing in a larger audience of young viewers than Jay did, so NBC claims they're happy. But their breathless "Conan is the New King of Late Night" press release seems like wishful thinking.

  3. Anonymous said...

    I think Conan needs to be more like Jay and talk to his Fans and listen to them. You go on the Tonight Show boards and they remove any suggestion that is negative. Conan does not even bother to have a personal message for his fans on the NBC Board. I do not think Conan is the nice guy he pretends to be. He is a phony and SOB and many people can see right through him. Everything is about him on the show he does not care what the audience thinks unless it will increase the ratings. NBC made a big mistake. He should go back to 12:30 AM EST where he belongs.