The late night wars are on, at least based on the early metered market ratings that measure the number of homes watching. There, Late Show with David Letterman charged back into the lead with a 3.5 preliminary rating. The Tonight Show and Conan pulled a 3.0 rating on Thursday night.
Fortunately for NBC, it's the age demo numbers that matter, and not total viewers. While final numbers for this week's late night shows won't be available until next Thursday, Conan thumped Dave in the age demos last week, but how much of that was fueled by the early interest when the show debuted is not clear -- it will get more clear when we see the data for this week next Thursday.
However, not wanting to wait around, NBC has sampled 21 of their markets for the demo, which, according to James Hibberd NBC believes is a good forecasting tool, and there, Conan Beat Dave last night among adults 18-49 with a 1.5 adults 18-49 rating to Letterman's .9 rating. Not the wide margins of last week, but still a significantly wide margin in the numbers hold up. The age demos drive advertising, and are the most meaningful.
The household numbers are not really all that meaningful in terms of how the shows are doing, at least in terms of ad sales and revenue. But, those household numbers are available earlier and make good fodder for news stories and, of course, blog posts even if they are not very meaningful. It looks like even with the household numbers cited here, NBC and Conan are besting CBS and Dave where it really matters.