TBS’ late-night gambit on Conan O’Brien
has paid off in spades — at least this first week.
The “very funny” network hit paydirt last week when
Conan opened big, averaging 2.9 million in its first four
days on-air. O’Brien, who earlier this year left NBC after a
falling out over a dispute over hosting The Tonight Show,
averaged 4.16 million watchers last Monday night in the
11 p.m. time slot, according to Nielsen. That bested his
former show, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, as well as
CBS’s Late Show With David Letterman and Comedy Central’s
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in total viewers.
More importantly for TBS, Conan’s premiere night
bested all competitors in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-
49 demo, averaging 3.29 million viewers.
Conan experienced an expected audience drop-off
over the rest of the week, generating 2.8 million, 2.7 million
and 2.0 million on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
nights. Still, TBS couldn’t have predicted a better start
to its new Conan era, especially as it pertains to reaching
younger viewers. The show’s viewer median age is 32 — a
very attractive number for potential advertisers, according
to Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming
for Katz Television Media Group.
“Even on the second day, when the numbers were
down, the numbers were still pretty substantial,” he
said. “Th e biggest takeaway was, the average age was
[around] 30, which is right in the wheelhouse of what
TBS is aiming for, and I think over time, if they’re able to
maintain 1 to 2 million viewers, it will be a huge success
for them — particularly with that demographic skew.”
TBS officials said O’Brien has a strong following
among younger viewers, and social media has proven
to be a key way for him to connect with his fans.
“Conan’s audience has been very vocal online, and he
clearly made a smooth transition from Twitter to TBS,”
said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment
Networks, in a statement.
Critics viewed Conan’s debut as mostly positive. USA Today’s
Robert Bianco said Conan’s first show “wasn’t O’Brien
at his funniest; it was too focused on the move and too reliant
on taped bits, but it was funny enough to get by.”
David Zurawick from The Baltimore Sun was more
critical, saying that O’Brien relied too much on “canned
video clips rather than topical humor.”
Conan’s strong start helped Lopez Tonight achieve
its highest ratings since the George Lopez-hosted show
launched last November.
Lopez Tonight, which moved to midnight to make
room for Conan, drew 1.3 million viewers, including
833,000 persons in the 18-to-49 demo, during the midnight
hour. The second night of Lopez garnered 959,000
total viewers and 719,000 viewers 18 to 49.
Overall for the week, Lopez Tonight averaged 1 million total
viewers and 715,000 adults 18-to-49 over four episodes.
Lopez Tonight’s premiere episode last November at 11
p.m. drew 3.2 million viewers combined for a simulcast
airing on TBS, TNT and truTV.