On TV’s endangered list as recently as last fall, ABC’s Nightline is now solidly in second place on the late night schedule.
For the just completed first quarter, “Nightline” topped CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” among Total Viewers and the A25-54 demo. It’s the first time in six years “Nightline” has outperformed “Letterman” for a first quarter. It’s also the first time in nine years the show has beaten “Letterman” in younger viewers three quarters in a row.
“Nightline” averaged 3.86 million Total Viewers during the first quarter. NBC’s “Tonight Show” still led with 5.32 million while the “Late Show” averaged 3.79 million.
This afternoon we talked with the show’s EP James Goldston about the numbers, the Nightline legacy and what’s next:
TVNewser: It’s been six years since “Nightline” has seen this kind of viewership, to what do you attribute the success of the show of late?
Goldston: There are number of factors. We relaunched the show in 2005. And you’ve seen reasonably steady growth since then. Those gaps you would see [with Leno & Letterman] were so large, but they’ve shrunk and shrunk. And it’s the incredible hard work that the team has put in. It’s a tough place to work, the hours are long, people work very hard.
I hope what we’re seeing is a new kind of heyday for Nightline. It’s good to see the show doing so well again.
I think what’s been under-reported was the effect the writer’s strike had. I think it was an opportunity [for viewers] to see what the new Nightline was about and some of those people stuck around.
TVNewser: Do you think NBC’s moving of Leno to prime time will help your show, or hurt it?
Goldston: It can only be an opportunity for us. We’re the #2 show in late night now and the show that’s #1 one is going to be playing five nights a week at 10 O’Clock. Clearly that’s an opportunity for people currently watching The Tonight Show to come and watch. But I don’t think anyone can predict what’s going to happen.
TVNewser: Jimmy Kimmel recently expressed interest in the 11:30 timeslot on ABC. But now, on some nights, there are on-air tosses from show to show? Will we see more of that?
Goldston: I think the relationship is perfectly cordial. I think the numbers speak for themselves. [Nightline] does extremely well and it’s relative performance has improved dramatically. And it’s there as a news alternative. There are a lot of comedy shows, and there’s only one Nightline.
TVNewser: You’ve been EP of the show going on four years now [since Nov. 2005], do you ever hear from Ted Koppel on the changes you’ve made and its current success?
Goldston: You know, Ted is a gentleman of the old school. Our relationship has been nothing but cordial. He’s been on the show several times. We bump into each other at the conventions and other places, and he still has many good things to say. We have nothing but our eternal thanks because there would not be a Nightline without Ted.
TVNewser: Any big stories coming up we should watch for?
Goldston: Our focus is very firmly on the economy at the moment. It’s a major preoccupation for the entire country – the politics and economics. We live in fascinating times – difficult times – but fascinating times and that’s where we’ll concentrate our energies.
I feel very proud of the team. There aren’t many shows growing right now, so to be a part of the tiny group of broadcast shows growing – I couldn’t be more pleased.