Jay Leno Reclaims Conan O’Brien’s Lock on Young Viewers

Published 4 years ago by

jay leno conan obrien tonight show nbc tbs 570x321 Jay Leno Reclaims Conan OBriens Lock on Young Viewers

The pendulum of favor in late night may have swung back in the direction of Tonight Show host Jay Leno, who just last year fell out of grace with some viewers – for the first time in his career.

When Conan O’Brien was unceremoniously dumped by NBC as host of Tonight after only six months on the job, many were quick to criticize Leno for being the apparent catalyst for O’Brien’s departure and his own return to the venerable program he had already hosted for seventeen years.

On November 8th, Conan O’Brien triumphantly returned to late night – albeit on basic cable – with the TBS incarnation of his act simply dubbed Conanairing weeknights at 11:00pm EST. The premiere of Conan drew a massive audience (4.2 million viewers) and towered over its direct competition The Daily Show (1.3 million) and The Colbert Report (1 million) on Comedy Central – as well as its broadcast counterparts The Late Show with David Letterman (3.4 million), and of course Jay Leno’s Tonight Show (3.5 million).

But in a new development that suggests viewers may finally be moving beyond the ugly late night fiasco of 2010, Jay Leno has once again regained his old ratings mojo while O’Brien’s program continues to steadily lose both traction and viewers. As reported Wednesday by the New York Post, for the first time since reclaiming The Tonight Show last winter, Jay Leno is now attracting as many young viewers as O’Brien did as the host of the legendary late night talk show.

JayLeno tonight show conan obrien Jay Leno Reclaims Conan OBriens Lock on Young Viewers
For the fourth quarter of 2010, The Tonight Show averaged a 1.0 rating in the coveted adults 18-49 demo — a number comparable with those of O’Brien’s Tonight Show. Leno also averaged 4 million viewers a night. O’Brien drew 2.5 million during the same period in 2009. On TBS, Conan attracts just over one million viewers nightly.

Perhaps the real winner in all of this isn’t Leno or O’Brien, after all. And it certainly isn’t David Letterman or his Late Show. Instead, it seems some viewers were permanently turned off to late night comedians following the debacle at NBC. Likely as a result, both Leno and Letterman are now ranked second and third, respectively, in total viewers behind ABC’s Nightline, which the New York Post has since aptly dubbed “the new late-night king,” averaging 3.9 million viewers a night to finish first in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Source: New York Post

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  1. That young audience doesn’t know how to count past 4.

  2. As long as we’re still using the Nielson system, there’s no way to tell exactly what people are watching still.

  3. Leno is the most unfunny person I’ve ever seen on television. Conan RULES!

    • Agreed!

  4. hmmmmm hmmmm

  5. The boring people who watch Leno can’t find TBS.

  6. Conan has me watching over The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Which is weird. I watch TDS at the 6PM hour here in CST now. Never expected to say that. Conan is freakin’ hilarious.

    I can’t imagine who would watch Jay over Conan, unless they’re just not paying for basic cable, which is a growing trend in the torrent generation. If I wanted to watch Conan sans the commercials, I could hit that, too. My suspicion is the growing number of folks in my age group downgrading to basic or no cable, and the subsequent fallout from that.

  7. Sure but, it doesn’t say how many of them watch on the Internet, which is how many young people watch these days.

  8. I try and watch other late night shows, I can’t get into them. CONNAN RULES!!! I have watched every ep that has been on TBS, and it’s true this young 28 year old watches all of mine on the internet.

  9. I’m 24. Conan was funny when I was 14. If I have time to watch late-night, I tune in to Craig Ferguson. If I’m home early enough, I watch bits of Jay Leno. Fallon seems to be settling in, too, but not good enough to prevent me from changing over to Craig.