Time-shifted viewing is giving Conan O’Brien a leg up on the competition, but Jay Leno is still holding a slim lead over his flame-haired rival when the crucial C3 metric is brought to bear on the late-night ratings.
According to Nielsen live-plus-seven-day data, TBS’ 11 p.m. chat show Conan is beating all comers in the core demos, averaging 1.44 million adults 18-49 and 930,000 viewers 18-34. When a week’s worth of DVR viewing was factored in to the late-night numbers, Conan out-delivered NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno by 7 percent among the 18-49 demo, while topping CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman by 25 percent.
From Nov. 8, the date of Conan’s launch, through Dec. 30, 2010, Leno averaged 1.35 million L7 viewers in his 11:35 p.m. time slot, while Letterman drew 1.15 million. In head-to-head competition, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart averaged 1.06 million L7 viewers at 11 p.m.
That said, Leno still leads Conan in the race that matters most to advertisers. Per Nielsen C3 ratings—the standard metric guaranteed by the networks––the Tonight Show averaged 1.21 million adults 18-49 in that same eight-week span, while Conan drew 1.17 million members of the target demo.
Adopted in 2007, C3 ratings provide measurement for average commercial minutes in live programming plus three days of DVR playback.
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