US TV: Jay Leno bested by Conan O'Brien in late night ratings

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Television audience ratings for U.S. TV host Conan O'Brien's first TBS program Conan last night were higher than rival Jay Leno and his late night program on NBC, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. O'Brien's ratings were also higher than CBS network's David Letterman, as well as Comedy Central programs hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Conan O'Brien in 2007
Image: John J. Kruzel/American Forces Press Service.

Monday marked O'Brien's return to late night television after his departure as host of The Tonight Show on NBC following a dispute this year, in which Leno's program The Jay Leno Show was canceled after poor ratings, and NBC reinstated Leno as host of The Tonight Show.

Conan O'Brien is enjoying a sweet, sweet victory in the ratings.

The Hollywood Reporter

O'Brien's debut program featured guests including curator Arlene Wagner of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, actor Seth Rogen and actress Lea Michele. His guest schedule for Tuesday night's program included actors Tom Hanks and Jack McBrayer, in addition to music from the group Soundgarden.

The premiere of Conan was watched by over 4.1 million viewers. Nielsen ratings data made public today showed that Leno's program The Tonight Show was only watched by 3.5 million viewers, and Letterman's Late Show was seen by 3.4 million people. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report were watched by 1.3 million and 1 million viewers, respectively.

O'Brien announced his move to TBS, a cable channel founded by Ted Turner and owned by Time Warner, in April.

O'Brien's viewership trended towards younger people, with 2,451,000 individuals ranges from ages 18 to 34 – and 3,285,000 people in the 18 to 49 age demographic. Leno's The Tonight Show, in comparison, only drew in 950,000 people in the same younger demographic breakdown.

In an analysis of O'Brien's ratings win, Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times wrote, "the debut of 'Conan,' the new late-night show starring Conan O’Brien, got off to a strong start". James Hibberd commented for The Hollywood Reporter, "Conan O'Brien is enjoying a sweet, sweet victory in the ratings."