Jon Stewart and his Daily Show are off to a promising start in 2011. The ratings for January are in and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart sits comfortably perched atop all late night cable series including Conan, the new TBS homestead for Conan O’Brien and his network television-rejected antics.

Stewart’s Daily Show averaged 1.5 million total viewers throughout the month of January. Conan, meanwhile, averaged just 1.1 million viewers. As a result, Stewart managed to upset Conan in several critical demos.

Stewart’s viewers 18-49 came in at 867,000, besting Conan‘s 811,000 and with regard to male viewers 18-34, Stewart also proved the winner, securing 335,000 viewers to Conan‘s 291,000. And although Conan ultimately prevailed in the most coveted late night demo, viewers 18-34 (Conan enjoyed 543,000 viewers to The Daily Show‘s 499,000), The Daily Show managed to win this key demo for the first time during the week of January 24th.

According to Bill Carter of the New York Times, “Mr. O’Brien has posted the strongest numbers in late night” when recorded playbacks are included. The median age for Conan‘s viewers is the youngest in all of late night by a wide margin: 31.1 years old. Stephen Colbert’s average viewer is 37.7 years of age; Jon Stewart’s is 41; Jimmy Fallon’s is 49.2; Jimmy Kimmel’s is 51.7; Craig Ferguson’s is 52.9; Jay Leno’s is 55.6; and David Letterman can boast the oldest audience with the average Late Show viewer being 55.8 years of age.

Now that the Leno-Conan feud has lost its luster as the biggest story in late night, television pundits and entertainment journalists are having a field day with the new ratings rivalry they’ve invented between Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, erroneously implying in the process that cable television is somehow only big enough for one of them. In reality, however, both Conan and The Daily Show have continued to put up  strong, respectable numbers that bode well for current and future cable television hosts – a growing contingency of entertainers consistently eroding the established network television viewer base.

Despite NBC heralding the second coming of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show – now firmly in the ratings lead among all late night talk shows –  as evidence that the network’s ouster of Conan O’Brien was ultimately good for business, both Leno and Tonight are not unscathed. Two years ago, Jay Leno averaged some five million viewers per night. Now, despite being in the lead among his peers, Leno’s viewership has dwindled all the way down to fewer than four million nightly viewers.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter