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Conan Watch: The Tonight Show wins in Conan's first week, but unsurprisingly ratings dropped every night

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June 6th, 2009

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I e-mailed James Hibberd asking him if he had the metered market numbers for Friday's Tonight Show, and that prompted him to publish himself a post he'd written but that THR's online team had not yet published with the numbers on his blog (thank you, James!):

O'Brien's "Tonight" premiere garnered a massive 7.1 overnight metered-market household rating, then dropped 30% on Tuesday (5.0), slipped 14% on Wednesday (4.3), went down 12% on Thursday (3.8) and fell 8% on Friday (3.5).

While Conan's debut was the highest-rated Monday episode of the veteran franchise in four years, last night was the lowest-rated Friday episode of "Tonight" in six months.

Yet the latest rating could also be a sign the O'Brien's out-of-the-gate decline is slowing and competitors were likewise down by a similar percentage when comparing Thursday to Friday.

Also, the first week of O'Brien's "Tonight" has averaged a 4.7 rating in the summer -- 21% higher than Jay Leno's second quarter average with the show. Several clips from "Tonight" have also received heavy online viral play, including one with Barack Obama endorsing the host that received considerable coverage.

"Tonight" likewise beat CBS' "Late Show," by a 62% margin this week. The gap between O'Brien and Letterman narrowed nearly each night, however, with the CBS program pulling a 2.7 on Friday.

It's still too early in the game to make much of the numbers and it will be a while longer still before we see viewer and demo numbers for last week.  So far, I don't see anything surprising in the numbers.  That Conan debuted strong and declined throughout the week was probably expected by everyone from us, to Jeff Zucker, to Jay Leno to David Letterman to Conan himself.

There will be some real chatter if Dave overtakes Conan when both are airing new shows, but at least for the first week, focus on  Conan's debut actually seemed to increase late-night viewing across the board.

Sorry, because of the problems moderating comments on these Conan/Dave posts, commenting is now turned off.

 
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