OT: Late Night Battle and Data

Submitted by philibuster on January 15th, 2010 at 2:13 PM

First off, I am with Conan, because I have a sense of humor, and am under the age of 40. I think Conan has been hamstrung by NBC since he took over the Tonight Show, being forced to tone down his humor and plug terrible NBC shows by having their "stars" on as guests.

Everyone is talking about how Conan hasn't had enough time to build an audience. Since we're all so fond of data, is there any way to get old ratings from early on in Leno's Tonight Show? How long did Leno take to build an audience? Is there a ratings archive anywhere? I'm sure with the collective brain of MGoBlog we can show that NBC is full of idiots. Or not. Depending on what the data show.



January 15th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

someone with more time to research may be able to provide concrete data, but Leno took some time to build the show to #1. I believe Letterman was winning the ratings war until Hugh Grant went on Leno to talk about his prostitute "situation".

For anyone who doesn't know what happened between Leno and Letterman, I highly suggest you google the NYT article form '94 about it. It really makes you hate Leno.

This is deja vu all over again. And for what? Leno isn't funny.


January 15th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

The one major issue that you probably won't be able to parse out is the detrimental effect the Jay Leno show had on NBC ratings after primetime.

The Jay Leno Show's terrible ratings are what is instigating this entire blow up. The local NBC affiliates revolted against the Leno Show because it was a terrible lead-in for the local news on the NBC affiliates.

When Leno took over, it seems that I recall NBC having a rather strong prime time lineup and likely to drive a lot of viewers into NBC later offerings.

And remember that Leno was getting his hat handed to him by Letterman until Hugh Grant appeared on the Tonight Show. The was the episode that turned the tide against Letterman and towards Leno.

I find it amazing that anyone thought that Leno in prime time was a good idea. The guy is a terrible interviewer and generally not funny.


January 15th, 2010 at 3:29 PM ^

I find it amazing that anyone thought that Leno in prime time was a good idea. The guy is a terrible interviewer and generally not funny.

NBC thought it was a good idea mostly because it was cheap to produce (as opposed to five-hour long shows that would otherwise go into that timeslot). This was still stupid, because clearly the show was going to be crappy (I'm with you - Leno is neither funny nor a good interviewer), but that was their mindset going in.


January 15th, 2010 at 2:33 PM ^

All you need to do is watch the last 2-3 broadcasts. Conan is going out his way, which is the funniest stuff he's done since taking over. Don't think I can go back to Leno after this. Wish they would move Kimmel up and Nightline back.


January 15th, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

Just yesterday, NBC put out a press release saying that Conan, in 7 of the past 9 weeks, has won the 18-49 demographic over Letterman.

Jeffrey Zucker is a moron.


January 15th, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

Jay Leno was on Charlie Rose a couple of years ago. Rose asked him about the Hugh Grant appearance and Leno downplayed it, saying that while the Tonight Show had been on top since, it was by the slimmest of margins. Letterman never had a commanding lead before that appearance (but beat him in the ratings) and Leno never had a commanding lead afterwards (but beat him the ratings). They basically split the audience between them.


January 15th, 2010 at 3:26 PM ^

This is turning out to be awfully good Television. Leave it to the stars to conjure up some good drama.

Of course it was gonna take Conan some time to build up the ratings, IIRC he had a terribly tough time his first couple years on the Late Night Show, but with time he was able to establish himself.

I get that Conan really rubs a certain demographic/people the wrong way, but whether or not he or Jay Leno is funny is besides the point.

The company they work for screwed both of them over and now in trying to cover its own ass is getting exposed and ridiculed by everyone around them.


January 15th, 2010 at 3:26 PM ^

Conan is most-likely going to end up at Fox within the year. They're already talking big dollars to lure him. I think it's great that Conan will end up at a network that will actually, you know, promote him and let him do his thing other than trying to turn him into Jay Leno or Steve freaking Allen. It isn't 1965 anymore.

That said, I still agree with the oft-echoed opinion that Comedy Central should shell out the big bucks and have him on at 12 after Stewart/Colbert. That would be 2 hours of appointment TV for me every night that I'm home.


January 15th, 2010 at 3:31 PM ^

I still agree with the oft-echoed opinion that Comedy Central should shell out the big bucks and have him on at 12 after Stewart/Colbert.

Is that seriously being considered? That would be amazing.


January 15th, 2010 at 4:08 PM ^

The problem with Comedy Central is that it's cable and I don't think Conan wants to go cable.

He might have more flexibility but in order to keep his ratings high and the remain in the 11:30 timeslot I think he'll stick to a network.


January 15th, 2010 at 6:48 PM ^

but the fact that he goes up against Stewart/Colbert since his move to 11:35 is why I have only watched the Tonight Show live once and that was the first show. I'll watch Conan's clips on Hulu, which is why this whole ratings argument is stupid in this era of web media. People who like Conan are going to find his programming one way or another, but it won't show up in the ratings.


January 15th, 2010 at 4:53 PM ^

Leno's reputation for years was that he was a decent guy...and who actually was pretty funny, but that NBC wanted a very middle-of-the-road type of comedy.

He has zero appeal to me. I've always enjoyed Letterman and ahve grown to enjoy Conan more and more.

NBC isn't getting another Johnny Carson. They should stop looking.


January 15th, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

It would be poetic for Conan to replace Letterman when Letterman is ready to step down. You'd have the two guys that NBC/Leno screwed over making a franchise over at CBS. - Ughh...I hate Leno.