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Leno’s Tonight Show Ratings Stay Below Conan’s; Will They Ever Top Them?

June 25, 2010

Are you watching Leno or Conan?

Leno’s Tonight Show Ratings Stay Below Conan’s; Will They Ever Top Them?


In the three weeks that Jay Leno’s Tonight Show overlapped with Conan’s on a calendar week basis (2010 vs. 2009) he’s finished behind Conan.

When might Jay overtake Conan’s past ratings? if ever?

If Jay holds at the 0.9 adults 18-49 rating he scored last week, he’d finish below Conan’s ratings for the entire summer.

The folks dwelling on Leno beating Letterman (which he did again last week) miss the point that beating the competition is important only in press releases (and to sites like ours that focus on the horserace) not to the network’s business.

What matters to NBC are a show’s absolute ratings (and their trend) which correlate to its advertising potential. On that basis, NBC cares about the Tonight Show’s current ratings and their trend (which is down vs. last year), not to Letterman’s current ratings.

CBS, of course, cares about Letterman’s ratings trend. On that basis, the fact that Dave had identical ratings to last summer for the last two weeks is pretty good in the broadcast television world where “flat is the new up”.

In related news, The Jay Leno Show’ Cancellation Payoff Is Complete.

The first chart shows the Leno/Conan ratings in the same sequential week of their run.

Conan/Letterman (2009-10) week 1 ended 6/5/09. Leno/Letterman (2010-) week 1 ended 3/5/10. The Conan/Letterman(2009-10) ratings do not include the final week the Tonight Show was in repeats prior to the Winter Olympics.

The second chart aligns the ratings weeks for the shows to their calendar weeks.

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