The results are in for the premiere of Conan O’Brien’s new TBS show, Conan. In total, 4.15 million viewers tuned in to see the late-night veteran's return to television.
In comparison, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno regularly averages 3.5million viewers and The Late Show with David Letterman follows with 3.4million.
While a large turn out for the series premiere is no surprise, I don’t think anyone expected Conan to pull in the ratings that it did. Even though 4.15million viewers is extremely successful, it’s the audience demographic that really counts. Of the millions of viewers that tuned in, 2.45million fell into the highly sought after 18-34 age group. Something that will surely make TBS and their advertisers extremely happy – especially since TBS is charging the same ad-rate that Conan’s show was receiving on network television.
During his tenure at NBC, Conan O’Brien was known for delivering a solid audience of young people. After his unceremonious departure from the television network, it appears that Conan was ultimately able to transition his popularity on the internet into real viewers.
Even late-night follow-up The George Lopez Show was able retain a fair amount of viewers, with 1.35 million viewers overall (571,000 in 18-34) tuning in to the second season premiere. While far from Conan's overall rating, it’s still slightly above the average numbers that The George Lopez Show was garnering in its original 11pm time slot - before Conan moved to the network.
Now, the question still remains: How will Conan do as time passes? While I’m sure every member of “Team Coco” will proudly announce that they will continue to watch Conan O’Brien as his series continues, not everyone will agree. Aside from the fact that the large turnout came from viewers who wanted to see how Conan would fare on cable television, late-night premieres always have artificially elevated ratings.
As I stated in my review of the first episode, Conan will likely end up averaging around 1.5-2 million viewers as the show progresses, perhaps less. While this number most certainly sounds like a failure compared to the premiere rating, it’s completely respectable for cable television. In comparison, The George Lopez Show premiered last year to 3.1million viewers but that number quickly settled to an average around 1 million.
Ultimately, Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS was not a money grab, nor an attempt to realistically compete with Jay Leno or David Letterman in the ratings. Instead, the red-hair Harvard alum was looking for a network that would appreciate his type of humor, his type of show, broadcasting to a core group of viewers that will appreciate it.
Because of that, Conan O’Brien will always be a winner.
Conan airs weeknights @11pm, on TBS
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