NBC Declares O'Brien "The New King of Late Night"

A day after enduring headlines about how David Letterman had bested whippersnapper Conan O'Brien in Tuesday's ratings, NBC fired off a press release formally declaring O'Brien "the new king of late night."

The network's proclamation, while arguably quick on the draw, was not at all inaccurate: O'Brien's week-one Tonight Show reigned over Letterman's ensconced Late Show, averaging 6.1 million viewers versus the latter's 3.5 million. O'Brien's lead over Letterman among in-demand adults 18-49 was even wider.

“This is beyond our wildest expectations,” said Rick Ludwin, Executive Vice President, Late Night and Primetime Series, NBC Entertainment. “Conan has brought new younger viewers to 11:35 pm and we're gratified that the demographic trend has continued here in week two, where the early numbers continue to show dominant victories, in all the key categories, for ‘The Tonight Show’.”

This came, incidentally, one day after NBC co-chair Marc Graboff declared that the late-night ratings game "is a marathon," not a sprint, and that this is a contest that will be fought over years.

The national Nielsen numbers for Conan O’Brien’s first week as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” are in, and it was a dominant performance, especially in the younger audience categories where NBC hoped he would maintain leadership after the departure of Jay Leno.

Mr. O’Brien’s strength among younger viewers was evident in the average age of his first week audience: 48, down from the average age of 55 for Mr. Leno’s last week.

Mr. O’Brien was especially strong in his premiere week with young male viewers. He pulled in twice as many men between the ages of 18 and 34, and three times as many men between the ages of 18-24, as Mr. Leno had in the last year.