The ongoing tug-of-war between Conan O’Brien and NBC has been a boon for ratings. The firestorm that erupted over the weekend and culminated yesterday with O’Brien’s statement that “I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction” has not only reinvigorated the monologues for all the late-night shows but given the No. 4 ranked Peacock a much-needed boost in the ratings. From Jan. 11 to Jan. 12 alone, The Jay Leno Show went from 4.799 million viewers to 6.099 million, as fans tuned in to see what the chinned one had to say about his controversial time shift. “I have to tell you, the folks here at NBC don’t handle these things well,” he said this week. “They don’t have a lot of tact. Like, after they canceled the show, they told me if I put on 10 pounds I can get on The Biggest Loser.” Leno’s been averaging 5.4 million during the fourth quarter.
At the same time, The Tonight Show has seen its overnight ratings tick up well over its fourth quarter average of 1.8 rating/5 share: On Monday, O’Brien earned a 2.3/6 in 56 local markets (the most immediate ratings available until nationals are released Jan. 22) and on Tuesday, his overnight rating jumped to a 2.8/7. His fourth quarter average in homes is 1.8/5. His yuks about his fate only seem to get better and better. “When I was a little boy, I remember watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and thinking, ‘someday, I’m going to host that show for seven months,” he said on Tuesday’s show. On both nights, however, Letterman still won the timeslot (3.4/9 and 3.8/9, respectively) as he, too weighed in on the brouhaha with jokes at Leno’s expense (Letterman’s fourth quarter average is 3.0/8 in homes): “A couple of minutes ago, Conan O’Brien, who was the host of The Tonight Show over there at NBC, announced that he would not follow Jay Leno at 12:05. Yeah, so you know what this means — that’s right, I knocked off another competitor.”
Jimmy Fallon also saw his overnight ratings improve from Monday to Tuesday (1.1/4 to 1.3/5), as well, with jokes like this: “Is anyone here flying this weekend? There are so many delays at my airport, my flight was bumped from 12:35 a.m. to 1:05 a.m.”
For more on the late-night controversy from EW.com: