Conan O'Brien's TBS ratings fall more than 30 percent in second day, but still strong
Even while critics agreed that Conan O'Brien's second night Tuesday on TBS was much better than the first -- Tom Hanks getting dunked with water was a clear highlight -- his ratings showed a lot of fans didn't stick around to find out.
O'Brien's Conan lost about 33 percent of its massive debut nights ratings on Tuesday, attracting a crowd of about 2.81-million viewers with an average age of 30. That was a bit of a fall from his debut night, when O'Brien drew 4.16-million viewers, topping rival Jay Leno and every other talk show in late night.
As Bill Carter chronicles in his most-excellent book on the Leno/O'Brien disaster at NBC, The War for Late Night, this pattern unfolded during O'Brien's first weeks as Tonight Show host -- when he debuted with blockbuster ratings that quickly subsided as Leno's older's fans turned to CBS' David Letterman over time.
O'Brien doesn't face a similar situation here. TBS' audience is already young, and Conan's median age -- at 30 according to ratings analyst Marc Berman -- is more than 15 years younger than his median audience age at NBC.
Where appealing to a young niche can be a problem in network television, it's a boon in cable, where the goal is to target a profitable nook of viewers. The real story of O'Brien's success or failure won't be known for weeks, when the thrill of the debut has faded and he has to draw an audience every night.
But for now, the folks at TBS can enjoy an early, if expected, victory.
Here's the first night's numbers, courtesy of Berman's Mediaweeek column:
Conan (TBS): 4.16 million, Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC): 3.47, Late Show with David Letterman (CBS): 3.39, Lopez Tonight (TBS): 1.35, Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central): 1.31, Colbert Report (Comedy Central): 1.01