Comedy Central: 'They're all fighting for 3rd place now'

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As the media obsesses over NBC’s late-night transition plan, The Colbert Report is taking a victory lap.

By one ratings measurement technique that’s contested by the broadcast networks, Stephen Colbert’s late-night show has beaten The Tonight Show among the valuable adults 18-49 demographic for a full quarter.

The Daily Show has averaged 2.5 million viewers and a 1.3 adult demo rating for the first three months of the year among first-run episodes. Colbert Report has averaged 1.9 million viewers and a 1.0 rating. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has averaged 3.6 million viewers and a 0.8 rating. Leno’s show is the top-rated late-night program on the broadcast networks.

“They’re all fighting for third place now,” declares Comedy Central’s ratings release.

Comedy Central only counts original first-run episodes in its ratings measurement and considers the broadcast system of including repeats when tallying late-night ratings to be an antiqued way of keeping score. One broadcaster countered that Comedy Central’s system is simply “making up your own rules.”

Either way, Colbert and Stewart’s strength in the young-adult ratings has put the hosts in the middle of media speculation as to whether either of them (or both) could take over a hosting slot on one of the major broadcast networks. Though given cable’s overall ratings rise compared to broadcast, and the fact they’re already winning, you have to wonder whether making a change would be worth it. Cable used to be considered TV’s minor league, but that’s really no longer the case.

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