Jon Stewart vs. Jay Leno: Networks spar over who's No. 1

Is there or isn’t there a new King of Late Night? Comedy Central is claiming victory after The Daily Show with Jon Stewart edged Jay Leno’s Tonight Show in the crucial Adult 18-49 demographic for the second quarter that ended June 26. Though The Tonight Show still draws the most overall viewers every night, 3.9 million, compared to The Daily Show‘s 2.2 million, Stewart’s show edged Leno, 1.295 million to 1.292 million, in the younger more advertiser-friendly demo.

But not so fast, says NBC. Spokesperson Tom Bierbaum says that Comedy Central strategically counted the ratings only for new episodes, while neglecting the ratings for reruns. According to their tabulations, The Tonight Show comes out on top when every episode is counted, 1.283 million to 1.167 million. Moreover, NBC makes the point that the first half-hour of The Tonight Show draws 1.37 million, which they contend is a fairer apple-to-apples comparison with the half-hour Daily Show. In an e-mail, Comedy Central spokesman Steve Albani said, “Broadcast traditionally has always included original plays and encores but like a lot of things they do, we believe that to be an archaic way of measuring performance. To each their own.”

While Leno and Stewart’s camps can argue over the details, ABC can confidently say that the debate is nothing more than fighting over second place. Nightline topped all the late-night shows in overall viewers (4.1 million) and Adults 18-49 (1.297 million). Click below for the top talkshows, with both Comedy Central and NBC contributing conflicting rankings:

Top 10 Late-night Talkshows (Adult 18-49), according to Comedy Central

1. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1.295 million avg viewers)
2. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1.292)
3. The Late Show with David Letterman (1.096)
4. The Colbert Report (.960)
5. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (.842)
6. Jimmy Kimmel Live (.766)
7. Conan (.748)
8. Chelsea Lately (.720)
9. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (.702)
10. Lopez Tonight (.340)

Top 6 Late-night Shows from 11:30-12:00 (Adult 18-49), according to NBC

1. The 
Tonight Show (1.370 million avg viewers)
2. Nightline (1.255)
3. The Late Show (1.112)
4. The Daily Show (.884) (overrun into 11:30 half-hour)
5. The Colbert Report (.868)
6. Conan (.614 million)

Comments (264 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 9
  • LOL

    If Leno would have had the Fast Five actors on his show more, then he would have been on top by a few million. Everyone wants to see those who were involved with the greatest movie ever made. Especially the super sexy Vin Diesel.

    • Krauss

      You are an idiot.

      • racefan111

        Humor eludes you…

      • daisy

        no really racefan, LOL goes on every movie board, states “America loves crap” and then when someone points out hos stupid that is he/she claims Fast Five is the best movie this year and anyone who goes to the cinema to see anything else is stupid. I think LOL is Vin Diesel O.O

      • Loch Ness

        Daisy, wake up. There are several people posting as “LOL.”

      • Im the real LOL

        I am not smart and troll all the message boards saying the same things over and over. I wish I had a even one friend. For now I will continue quoting my favorite bumper stickers. I dont care if everyone thinks I am a douchebag. Thats how I roll. I own you all losers

      • Tom

        The King of Late Night? And then you woke up from that nice dream you you were having there.

      • @daisy

        It is also clear that “LOL” is being sarcastic about Fast Five.

      • LOL here (lol(lol(rofl(lol))))

        alas, I’m the real LOL and I insist these posers stop at once. I don’t agree that Fast Five is the greatest movie of the year or all time. As great as it may be, Fast Five pales in comparison to the true king of all movies: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

      • stwebb

        Leave DSK alone

      • Tom

        Jon Stewart is my hero. Returning sanity to the USA. Comedy solves everything. Why didn’t we think of this before?

      • jo

        Lover, that was THE least interesting story I’ve ever read in my life, and people who post those lame a$$ sites should be very embarrassed. Good thing for anonymity huh?

    • Yeti

      That is the best comment that has ever appeared on EW

      • dave


    • qregrey


      t s h i r t s -12

      s h o e s -35

      b i k i n i -17


      f r e e——– s h i p p i n g

    • Shawn

      I love LOL, and I think he is super sexy, even if he’s already given his heart to Vin Diesel

    • LOL Jr.

      Is it true that Fast Five’s movie scripts are done by a five-year old kid according to The Onion newspaper?

  • Bob

    Good. Jay Leno is evil.

    • Lee Harvey

      Leno’s audience is old and tired, just like him.

      • LMFAO

        The only audience older than Leno’s is the Fox News audience. Hopefully, they will all die off soon.

      • Bored

        Be careful, one day you’re going to be old, mean and cranky too.

      • NoRez

        I’m old and tired, but I watch The Daily Show; my brain still works quite well.

      • LMFAO

        If Stewart would get Weiner to come on his show I would poop my pants. I love Weiner

      • Tim

        LMFAO do you mean Michael Weiner(Savage)?

      • Tom

        I only watch the Scottish guy.. Everything else is political trash and nonsense, dogshows, top 10 lists, and really bad live bands playing payola.

      • gag

        1. Lee Harvey???? really???? With a pseudonym like that you are complaining about old people?
        2. Tom – You are so on the money. The Scottish Guy ROCKS!

      • Lay Jeno

        I’m still telling jokes from 1992. I have several cars, too.

      • graze

        As opposed to younger, mean, and cranky…

        Stewart’s funny even if he’s a bit too much to the left while Leno just tries too hard to be funny falling flat

      • peter

        Actually, letterman’s audience age is one year older than leno’s.

      • Tom

        Too bad cars don’t run on crappy jokes.

    • ObserverMI

      How dumb.

      • lolarites

        What he did to Conan is evil and that observation is not dumb at all.

  • Steve

    Hey Jay Leno: karma is a wonderful thing. Enjoy your continuing slide down the ladder in the months to come!

    • Bea

      So true! Karma is a B*TCH. Instead of going out on top (in some people’s opinion) we now all get to witness the long, slow beating of a dead horse. Somewhere Conan is laughing his a*s*s off….
      Stewart & Colbert all the way!!!!!

      • SaraS

        Well… I doubt Conan’s laughing at all. Look at his ratings.

      • DaveinIndy

        Well, he’s ahead of George Lopez …

      • Tom

        Anybody is ahead of George Lopez. Get real.

      • John

        Leno may not be funny anymore, but Conan was never funny. Leno did not fail NBC like Conan did. When Conan took over the Tonight Show, the ratings tanked, and they were getting beat out by Letterman, BADLY. They went back to Leno, and while I agree he isn’t very funny, he took over the top rating spot again. Conan barely gets half the audience, and don’t say its because he is on cable. So is Jon Stewart, and the entire article is discussing how close they are.

  • Mica

    Yay! Team Jon, FTW!

    • Cindy

      And Craig Ferguson for #2!

    • Tom

      Craig FTW! He makes me laugh. Jon reminds me of why nobody brags about majoring in political science at college.

      • gag

        Tom – I am starting a fan club for you! Not only are you right about Craig Fergy, you are right about the blow hard Stewart. He is such an arrogant ******.

      • DaveinIndy

        I still watch him, but his arrogance is showing more and more, … “edgy” is becoming “aren’t I formidable?”. Colbert continues to strike the balance far better – at least to my tastes.

      • Tom

        Colbert is kinda predictable like Jon though. The predictability kills it for me.

  • Chris

    I love how all these boastful links are not taking in to account this is a comedy central distortion piece. They factored in Live PLUS SEVEN DAYS in to this. Stewart does NOT win in the Demo in the more prized Live plus SAME DAY. Stewart pulls between a 0.6-7 in the Demo NIGHTLY. I have seen the figures so its fairly comical to see how he magically got up to a 1.0 in the Demo. I looked it up and it was distorted Comedy Central facts as always. Also bare in mind that TV watching levels for a half hour show at 11PM is different from an hour show starting at 1135. From 11:35 to midnight, Jay still beats Stewart and still beats Colbert by a landslide.

    • Bob

      Go back into the common room of your nursing home. No one can stand Leno anymore.

      • Ryan

        LOL, Bob. He’s right, though, Comedy Central is being very funny with these numbers. One day soon Leno will certainly fall from #1 in 18-49 because his audience is aging, but it hasn’t happened yet and really isn’t even that close.

      • Chris

        I regretfully inform you that I am 24 years of age. Take your prejudiced attitude elsewhere. I just know these numbers are heavily fabricated to make Comedy Central look good.

      • ScubaGolfJim

        “Go back into the common room of your nursing home. No one can stand Leno anymore”

        Yeah, No One, except the ones that keep Jay at number one overall, even without the crybabies still ignorant about Dodo not being good enough to keep Jay’s numbers.

      • SteveStrifeX

        @Chris, I haven’t checked the numbers but that does sound correct. However, it should also be noted that Jon Stewart is on Cable while Jay Leno is on Network, so the standards each are held to are quite different. Ohio State’s football team wasn’t bragging because they just barely beat Navy (in 2009), and neither should you

      • Chris

        @SteveStrifeX – I agree. Not getting worked up just like keeping things accurate :O) I know it irks many peoples feathers that Jay (whom everybody claims to hate) on a 4th place network is still beating everybody (lowered ratings and all). Letterman is on the most watched network and a recent press release has him and FALLON tied in the ratings. That’s just plain sad. Technically Jay competes directly with the Colbert Report which he beats handily. Stewart faces Handler directly. All is apples to oranges. Advertisers care more about Live plus same day and every night included.

      • SteveStrifeX

        @Chris, agreed, good point. I’m a bigger fan of Stewart than I am of Leno, but I’m ok with the fact both shows are doing very well on their respective networks. Though on your behalf, I’m not certain that @Bob understands that Leno is winning the A18-49 demo, which IS the younger demographic and not nursing home folk

      • Chris

        @SteveStrifeX – Yep. I have seen some mini demo breakdowns like 25-54, he does better than any on that one. Even in the 18-24 and 18-34 Demo Jay is in the top 5. I don’t think Letterman or even Craig Ferguson makes that list. So if people want to talk about who attracts the older audience, it just might be Letterman. Jay and his repeats are hovering around the 1.0 mark. Letterman has been a regular 0.6 this whole summer with low 3 mil to under 3 million viewers. Conan despite him being the “young guy” is hovering the 0.3-0.4 mark with around 600,000 viewers each night on average.

    • Tim

      Boring people like dumb things and I mean Leno. Unless its Headlines (which they dont write.)

      • L

        Headlines was the only part of the show that I could stand, then they kept moving the bit to other nights. I just watch The Daily Show and Colbert now — Tonight is not even worth DVRing.

    • Bea

      Jay Leno’s comedy is so watered down and neutered. All he does is make light jokes that only the extremely sheltered find amusing. Then he spends the rest of the time with his lips adhered to whatever celebrities a*s*s is parked in his guest chair for the night.
      (The funniest thing I ever saw him do was the newspaper clippings segment where he made fun of an ad for a restaurant seeking a server with training in Squirrel… oh the jokes he made. Except that anyone who’s worked in a restaurant will know that Squirrel is restaurant computer system used to ring in food orders. Way to fact check Tonight Show)
      The Daily Show is actually a smart show that satires the absurdity of (mostly) American News outlets and the sheep (who all probably think Leno is hilarious!) that unquestioningly follows it. And his guests are a nice mix of celebrities, politicians, and authors.

      • jennrae

        That’s right about Squirrel! That’s so funny. Leno is an idiot. Maybe you want to make sure it’s a mistake before you make fun of it, eh Leno?

    • Kevin

      How could it be a distortion piece? Entertainment Weekly is reporting on the way that each network views the ratings battle. EW is actually owned by Disney so if you had any clue you might have suggested that they wrote this piece to brag about Nightline, which is on Disney owned NBC. When I see claims like yours, I immediately know the person doesn’t really know much about the topic and likely didn’t even read the entire article. It is hilarious that there are “watchdogs” like yourself who clearly have a problem with what I can only guess you imagine as the liberal media and the way that every article you disagree with is a distortion piece. What I think is really great though is the way Leno’s ratings success over John Stewart is so important to you that you would instantly start running your mouth without actually reading the article. Please admit that you didn’t even read the entire article. At least give us that and then we can rest assured that nobody can be as retarded as you.

      • Kevin

        To clarify, I meant “Disney owned ABC.”

      • Kevin

        Or is it Time Warner? Who cares.

  • markinnyc

    My god the only thing that could be worse then the Jay Leno show must be a rerun of the Jay Leno show.

    • LMFAO

      This ^^^^

      • LMFAO

        ^^^^ I play games on the internet all day in between trolling EW posts. I speak like a 12yr old.

      • Bill-O’s loofah

        You got pwned! LOL

    • Kevin

      I love when Jay Leno does his “signature bits!” The best are the ones that his writers steal from Howard Stern.

  • TR

    Conan’s not doing that well, even with a “hipper” demographic and less restrictions than NBC placed on him.
    Any wonder NBC dropped him?
    And I can’t believe Lopez Tonight is long for this world with those numbers unless it’s cheap to produce and has great demos in some key group (Latinos?).

    • Dave

      Part of that is just the network. Some people just leave a major network on, which partially accounts for Leno’s reruns doing well. It’s not he power of Leno; it’s the unwillingness of people to change the channel before they go to sleep. If ratings were able to subtract the I-set-my-sleep-timer-during-the-news-and-it-stayed-on-thru-Leno-effect, then he’d be like number 8.

    • MM

      You forget that TBS is not a major network, nor really known for late night shows, while NBC has a history of decades and decades of late night history. So, it’s not really a fair comparison.

      • CG

        “So it’s not really a fair comparison.” Yet if the numbers were reversed the CoCo crazies would be flooding this place with high-fives, “in-your-face”-es, and boo-yahs.

    • JohnDoe

      He may not get the same viewers he did on NBC, not everyone has cable. But Conan is probably more popular now than he ever has been.

      • DudeMan

        Someone doesn’t know how the Nielsen ratings system works. No Leno doesn’t get higher ratings because “people leave their tv on” because your tv doesn’t send a magic signal to the ratings people.

      • DudeMan

        Whoops meant to reply to the dude two spots up.

    • Kevin

      Restrictions on Conan? No offense, but don’t just throw statements out there when you have no basis for them. Find me any instances where NBC restricted Conan. Good luck on that, because there aren’t any in the books written by Bill Carter and if it isn’t in there, then it probably didn’t happen.

  • Andy

    I prefer 6-10 on that list way more than 1-5.

  • reel_deal

    Yet Conan continues to stumble and Leno has better ratings than Letterman, fallon and kimmel

    • NoRez

      Conan is a 12:30 comic. If he could swap with Craig Ferguson, life would be wonderful.

      • reel_deal

        Lies Conan is not all that funny, Ferguson is excellent

      • LOL

        Ferguson can be funny, but too often his monologues just ramble and then end up in a ditch. He’s probably the best interviewer, though.

      • Tom

        Jon Stewart is just too political to be enjoyable sometimes.

      • @Tom

        It’s a political comedy/talk show. If you don’t follow politics and national/world events, I could see how one may not find it enjoyable. Then again, one should also be chastized for know knowing anything about the world in which one lives.

      • Tom

        I didn’t get my college degree at a comedy club either, so what’s your point exactly?

    • Dave

      Your seriously comparing a comic on NBC to a comic on tbs? look at Leno’s lead-ins compared to conan’s and letterman’s. if conan or letterman had half the lead-ins that leno has, they would beat him every night.

  • Parka

    Who cares about reruns?. NBC isn’t able to admit that they lost their 1 position.

    • Ryan

      Parka, reruns matter because Daily Show has so many of them. A show that airs 7 hours of new episodes a month is trying to claim victory over a show that airs 21.

      If Daily Show’s logic was realistic, then the real king of late night is Saturday Night Live. Their 20 episodes a year blows away everything. But maybe Daily Show can catch up by cutting back to just 3 shows a year. Clowns.

      • SteveStrifeX

        @Ryan, shows like The Daily Show and The Tonight Show have a core viewing audience, which means that their ratings fluctuate maybe +/- 0.1 A18-49 for each episode. I’m not sure why you feel that having more new episodes automatically garners a higher weighting percentage. By your logic, the SuperBowl was the worst performing TV program of the year since it only aired once

  • jared4ever

    Jon Stewart all the way!

  • America watches crap

    People who defend Leno and Fox News based on ratings probably think that McDonald’s has the best food.

    • Ryan

      Haven’t heard anyone defending Leno based on ratings. But disliking Leno isn’t a reason to distort ratings.

      • gag

        wtf does Fox News have to do with it?

      • @gag

        People (and by ‘people’ I mean, of course, morons) are constantly countering the fact that FoxNews is AWFUL with the response that ‘they have the highest 24-hour news channel ratings'; as if high ratings somehow negates the giant sucking sound that constantly eminates from their studios.

  • Mike Armstrong

    Stewart is a refreshing throwback to the days when a great comic made you laugh with his insightful take on public events, particularly the antics of politicians or over-the-top celebrities. The Daily Show gets my vote.

    • Ryan

      stewart annoys me with his fake laugh during interviews
      his writers are excellent

      • Lay Jeno

        I laugh at my own monologue jokes since no one else does.

  • everyone

    It’s surprising that Leno’s audience is still awake to watch him. Leno is a slimy turd.

    • erin

      They’re not. I’ve heard that Nielsen counts the ratings of the channel your TV is on when you turn it off at night.

      • Wha’ever

        Then if you believed it you must not be very clever my dear.

  • Truth

    I’ve always thought of Jay Leno as #2.

    • LOL

      I hate MSNBC. All those viewers are lunatics. I love Fox news

      • GB

        Buy more gold! Love, Glenn

      • Douglas

        LOL, you are seriuously taste-challenged as well as politcally-challenged. If you watched more Jon Stewart you’d see how every word on FOX “NEWS” is a lie.

      • Tim

        Ed Shultz is pro American worker. Fox news is not.

      • Woot

        Obvious troll comment. Fox News is way more nutty, but MSNBC has their share of loons as well.

      • LMFAO

        You guys keep eating the crap Stewart feeds you. Derp de derp.
        So pathetic. LOL SO funny

      • LOL

        GOP fears Stewart.

      • gag

        of all the things in the world today, you really think anybody fears Stewart? I am a republican… I can assure you I don’t watch Fox News all day, and I do not fear a half assed comedian on a basic cable comedy show.

      • @ GB


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