During the third quarter of 2009, the half-hour ABC News program “Nightline” enjoyed a 16% larger audience than the same period in 2008, which was enough to put it ahead of CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”
This marks the first time since 1995 that “Nightline” outperformed its competition during a third quarter and it also represents the best delivery of total viewers for a third quarter since 2003.
Over the summer, “Nightline” benefited from a string of high-profile news stories, the most notable being the death of pop star Michael Jackson. “Nightline” co-anchor Martin Bashir rose to prominence with his 2003 documentary “Living with Michael Jackson.” In addition to this, the late night game was in flux after Jay Leno turned “The Tonight Show” over to Conan O’Brien in June. “Tonight” saw a 38% decline in total viewers compared to third quarter, 2008.
As always, it is worth noting that these figures represent the performance of “Nightline”‘s half-hour compared to the full hours of “Late Show” and “Tonight.” (Full ratings report)