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Leno, Conan, ‘Nightline’ and the Late-Night Ratings

nightline.jpgThe NYTimes’s Bill Carter reports today on a new NBC plan “to restore Jay Leno to his old spot at 11:35 each weeknight for a half-hour, while pushing the man who replaced him, Conan O’Brien, to a starting time of 12:05 a.m. Mr. O’Brien would then have a full hour.”

A half-hour program at 11:35 for Leno would certainly be an interesting development in the NBC/CBS late-night competition, but there’s also another half-hour show on a competing network during that same time slot that does pretty well: ABC’s “Nightline.”

During the short New Year’s week (Mon-Wed) with Conan and David Letterman in repeats, “Nightline” was the most-watched program:

Show Network A25-54 A18-49 Total Viewers
Nightline ABC 1.51M 1.20M 3.89M
Late Show CBS 1.51M 1.12M 3.69M
Tonight Show NBC 1.16M 1.02M 2.12M

But these days, a “Nightline” victory is neither rare nor merely the result of diminished competition due to repeats. The show has drawn more viewers than NBC’s “Tonight” show for 28 straight weeks now, something that hasn’t happened since they started keeping records in 1991. And in Q4, Letterman’s lead was only 220k total viewers.

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