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So it looks like there’ll be duelling press releases throughout the summer in the Conan O’Brien vs David Letterman battle for supremacy. But I’ve just learned that what wasn’t in either network’s PR sheets is that Conan is now garnering the smallest audience for The Tonight Show ever well, at least since the advent of Nielsen people meters for the show in 1987. There’s good and bad news for both CBS and NBC. It’s clear right now that Dave’s Late Show is topping Conan’s Tonight Show in audience size. This is the first time Dave has done this to The Tonight Show in a full week of original broadcasts since 2005, and that has to worry NBC Universal Jeff Zucker, whose decision it was to rotate out Leno and rotate in Conan. Especially since this was probably the last week that the late night addicts were sampling O’Brien before settling in to their viewing routine. On the other hand, Conan is delivering better demographics — about 11 years younger in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 category. But CBS noted that Dave was beginning to “narrow the gap” — as was Craig Ferguson over Jimmy Fallon, who’s also winning those coveted demos. Here are the network statements:

From CBS:

STUDIO CITY, Calif – June 25, 2009 – CBS’s LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN beat “The Tonight Show” in viewers for the first time in a full week of original broadcasts since December 2005, according to Nielsen live plus same day ratings for the week ending June 19, the third week since Conan O’Brien took over as host of “The Tonight Show.”

LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN delivered a 2.5/06 in households with an average of 3.46m viewers, up +14% in households (from 2.2/06) and +13% in viewers (from 3.05m) compared to the same week last year.

LATE SHOW beat “The Tonight Show” in households (2.5/06 vs. 2.3/06, +9%) and viewers (3.46m vs. 3.32m, +4%). LATE SHOW beat “The Tonight Show” in viewers against an all-first run week of “Tonight Show” broadcasts for the first time since the week ending December 2, 2005 (the week Oprah Winfrey appeared on LATE SHOW).

LATE SHOW has also narrowed the gap with “The Tonight Show” in adults 18-49, trailing by just -0.5 this week, compared to -0.6 last week and by -1.4 rating points in Conan O’Brien’s premiere week.

THE LATE LATE SHOW with CRAIG FERGUSON posted a 1.2/04 in households with 1.55m viewers, up +9% in households (from 1.1/04) and +7% in viewers (from 1.44m) compared to the same week last year.

LATE LATE SHOW tied “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in households (1.2/04, each). LATE LATE SHOW beat “Late Night” on two nights in viewers: Monday (1.63m vs. 1.61m) and Thursday (1.66m vs. 1.43m). LATE LATE SHOW was in its closest competitive position with “Late Night” since the week ending May 8, 2009 in both households and viewers and since the week ending May 22, 2009 in both adults 18-49 and adults 18-34.


From NBC:

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – June 25, 2009 – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” has dominated key late-night ratings for the week of June 15-19, out-delivering CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman” in every important demographic– adults, men and women 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 – on every night of the week.

Despite the ratings boost that came with Letterman’s apology to Gov. Sarah Palin on the Monday, June 15 “Late Show,” Conan’s “Tonight” dominated the week in every key demographic, stretching his leads versus the same week last year and compared with the “Tonight” season-to-date average. Conan won the week by a 67 percent margin in adult 18-49 viewers (1.8 million adults 18-49 vs. 1.1 million for “Late Show”), up from a 53 percent win during the same week last year and up from a 34 percent “Tonight” margin for the season through the end of May.

In the younger half of the key 18-49 demographic, adults 18-34, Conan won the week by a towering 164 percent margin (930,000 adults 18-34 vs. “Late Show’s” 352,000), up from 103 percent for the same week last year and up from 50 percent for “Tonight” this season through the end of May.

Conan also defeated all other broadcast and cable competition in the time period last week, delivering double- or triple-digit leads over the top cable networks in the time period among key demos: by 63 percent in adult 18-49 rating (1.3 vs. 0.8 for Adult Swim), 27 percent in adult 18-34 rating (1.4 vs. 1.1 for Adult Swim) and 114 percent in adult 25-54 rating (1.5 vs. 0.7 for USA). Conan’s 1.3 rating in adults 18-49 also decisively outscored Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (0.8) and “Colbert Report” (0.6).

NBC’s late-night demographic surge extends to 12:35 a.m. ET, where “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” out-delivered CBS’s “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” in 18-49 viewers by a 60 percent margin last week (930,000 adults 18-49 vs. 581,000 for “Late Late Show”), up from a 49 percent margin for the same week last year and up from Jimmy’s 46 percent margin through the end of May.

The median age of Conan’s audience last week was 45.8, more than 11 years younger than Letterman’s 57.0. Conan is also younger than he was a year ago on “Late Night,” where the median age of his audience for this same week one year ago was 48.5.

At 12:35 a.m. ET, the median age of Jimmy Fallon’s audience was 44.0, more than nine years younger than the 53.5 for “Late Late Show.” ABC’s “Nightline” (57.9) and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (53.1) are also significantly older than “Tonight” and “Late Night.”

Conan has won 15 of 15 nights to date over “Late Show” in adults 18-49 and virtually every other important demographic. Conan has also maintained his demographic dominance through every night to date of the current week of June 22, according to Nielsen’s Local People Meters in 21 metered markets.

At 1:35 a.m. ET, “Last Call with Carson Daly” tied the adult 18-49 ratings of “Late Late Show” and “Kimmel.” In adults 18-34, “Last Call” (0.4 rating) beat both “Late Late” and “Kimmel” (0.3 each).

For the week of June 15-19, Conan’s average 1,763 million adults 18-49 topped the 1.058 million of Letterman; in total viewers, Conan’s audience of 3.320 million persons trailed Letterman’s 3.463 million; and in adults 18-34, Conan’s 930,000 million out-scored Letterman’s 352,000. At 12:35 a.m. ET, Jimmy Fallon’s 930,000 million adults 18-49 for the week out-delivered Ferguson’s 581,000; in total viewers, Jimmy’s 1.601 million beat Ferguson’s 1.547 million; and in adults 18-34, Jimmy’s 467,000 topped Ferguson’s 232,000.

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.