NBC PR is working overtime this holiday weekend, and it paid off! They successfully convinced In the late night ratings tussle, Variety is convinced that “winning” matters. Edit: Earlier, I assumed that Variety had been convinced by NBC PR. Based on new information, that was in error, and I no longer believe that to be the case.

Variety covers a lot of ground in trying to point out that Jay Leno’s Tonight Show “winning” (beating Letterman’s Late Show) is relevant, but in television, “winning” matters only for PR bragging rights, and of course to the egos of the players involved, which Variety did point out. (In baseball winning is what matters, in television it’s how many runs you score, i.e. your ratings).

I’ll be the first to admit that we play up the horserace that is TV ratings more than just about any site out there, but I remind people that it’s all for fun and reader motivation (which helps our business), and doesn’t really matter to the television business. The absolute ratings, and their ups and downs, matter.

NBC’s ad sales force doesn’t sell “wins”, it sells ratings to advertisers. And increasing those ratings, or keeping them from declining, is all that matters to the bottom line.

Jay Leno is first in latenight again, after his departure and return. The numbers are down, yes, but David Letterman — despite being in a better competitive position — is once again staring up at “The Tonight Show.”

via  Variety.com.

The only part of that quote that makes any difference to NBC’s business is “The numbers are down”.

And while I love to poke the beehive that is Conan vs. Leno vs. Letterman, here are the numbers that matter for NBC’s business:


ADULTS 18-49 rating/share

NBC “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” 1.1/5
CBS “Late Show,” 0.9/4
ABC “Nightline,” 1.0/4


ADULTS 18-49 rating/share

NBC “Tonight,” 1.4/6
CBS “Late Show,” 1.0/4
ABC “Nightline,” 1.0/4

CBS and ABC ratings included to demonstrate what matters to their businesses.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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