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So, how's that Jay Leno VS. David Letterman ratings battle going, anyway?


            David Letterman's losing the ratings battle to Leno thus far, but for how long?

As a member of Team Coco, the Comedy Examiner's been quite curious how Jay Leno's return to "The Tonight Show" would fair in the ratings.  Would Jay be able to pull down the same sorta numbers he was pulling down back before Conan took over the "Tonight Show" desk, or would he fall under the weight of a bitter audience to the numbers over at the "Late Show"?  After two weeks, we've got some answers.  Read on for the details, my gentle Examiner readers...

So, it's been two weeks (a little over, but you get the idea) since Jay Leno resumed his duties as host of NBC's "Tonight Show".  Before Jay came back, there was much speculation over whether or not the comedian could put up the same sort of ratings he'd earned prior to heading to primetime, and there were just as many predictions that he'd beat Letterman again as there were predictions that he'd lose. 

Turns out, Leno's kinda winning.  "Kinda" because he's not pulling down the same amount of viewers that he did during his original "Tonight Show" run, but he is beating Letterman in the late night game after two weeks.  Let's take a closer look at how he's done:

Between March 8 and 12, Leno averaged 4.4 million viewers, trumping David Letterman's The Late Show, which averaged 3.8 million viewers. Leno also won out among the adults-18-to-49 demographic.

He beat Letterman overall during week one, too, with a 1.5 to Letterman's 1.0 share.  Here's the catch, though: Leno's ratings are actually down 13% from where they were a year ago-- long before Conan took over the "Tonight Show" desk-- and down 3% overall.  It's likely that this number reflects the amount of people that were soured towards Leno following the "Late Night Wars" at NBC.  Frankly, I'm surprised it's not higher.  Then again, you should never underestimate the power of a hilarious "Headlines" bit.

Meanwhile, it should also be pointed out that Leno's ratings are barely above the numbers that Conan was putting up while he was in charge of "The Tonight Show".  It's also been reported that the average age of the Leno viewer is higher than both Letterman and Conan-- 56 for Leno, 54 for Letterman, and 46 for Conan.  This information was brought to you by "Obvious Industries", Old Folks' Home Division. 

As many analysts have pointed out, the latenight game isn't won in weeks-- it's won over long periods of time.  Only time will tell if Leno's able to maintain his position as the king of late night over Letterman.  After two weeks, Jay's leading, but it's far from the lead that NBC wanted or expected him to have over CBS' "Late Show".  Even though he's currently losing, my guess is that Letterman's still feeling pretty happy about all this.

What do you guys think?  Leno or Letterman?  Don't say "Conan", as he's no longer an option.  Have you watched Jay Leno's "Tonight Show"?  Is it just as hilarious as you remember it being?  Are you sticking with Dave through all this?  Sound off in the comments section below, folks: we wanna know what you think about all this.  And, after you've done that, check out some of these other recent Comedy Examiner articles:

COMEDY EXAMINER COMMENTARY: THE FINAL SEASON OF "LOST" (WITH VIDEO)-- in which the Comedy Examiner gets up on his soapbox about the final season of ABC's best show ever.  And, yeah, for the hundredth time: I remember that "According to Jim" aired on ABC.

FUNNY STORY: MAN GETS 15 YEARS IN PRISON FOR BREAKING BACK INTO PRISON-- in which we meet the world's dumbest man.  You always wondered when he'd pop up, and now you can finally learn his epic story.

"ANCHORMAN 2" NOT LIKELY ANY TIME SOON, SAYS RON BURGUNDY HIMSELF-- in which we learn that we're probably not going to get an "Anchorman" sequel, after all.  That's kind of a big deal.

YOU'RE NEVER GONNA GUESS HOW "JACKASS 3D" GOT THE GREENLIGHT (NO VIDEO)-- in which we learn the terrifying truth about how Paramount Pictures decided to greenlight "Jackass 3D".  Caution: this story does contain something called the "Heli-cockter".

(photos: top--, middle--, bottom--


  • Mr. Obvious 5 years ago

    The only thing sadder than someone feeling intellectually superior over preferring Conan to Leno is a writer who can't even understand the sources that he's quoting. Examine what you've written a little closer, Scotty, and see if you can't figure out why you sound so moronic as you snidely note that Leno's audience is made up of old folks.

  • Mr Obvious obviously sucks 5 years ago

    Mr. Obvious, I would love to see Jay Leno's ratings if his primary lead in, was ....... the Jay Leno show. You know the "channel changing" entertainment that NBC Affiliates and Conan had to endure.

    NBC executives are so incredibly stupid, and Jay Leno is clearly the biggest freakin jerk in all of television. I will never watch one more second of that moron.

  • Laura 5 years ago

    I stopped watching Leno altogether. I won't waste my time. I would rather go to bed.

  • Cynthia 5 years ago


    And I have no qualms about saying it.
    Leno's ratings will be right back where they were before all of the crap hit the fan over these last several months. His show will be #1 in the late night ratings. (And for the bazillionth time, I watch Letterman!)

    I'd like to know just how accurate that age poll was, Scott. It sounds more like the results gleaned from your office dartboard of resentment.

    You really should be more careful in typifying the 50+ age group as being "old folks" and hence the reason for St. Conan being booted. It couldn't be further from the truth - and it smacks of sour grapes emanating from our friendly Examiner.

  • Capt Body 5 years ago

    David Letterman rapes. Big jaw leno is trash. I watched leno once after he came back and he is not funny at all. David letterman makes the guests seem mote interesting, and he's not corny like leno.

  • Kevin 5 years ago

    The only thing sadder than someone feeling intellectually superior over preferring Conan to Leno is....

    Is there anything sadder than that? LOL... imagine someone has absolutely nothing to feel good for so he decided that one's taste for TV shows makes him not a loser.

  • Bob 5 years ago

    Leno is absolutely corny. He's not funny. He's just one big piece of lousy.

  • me 5 years ago


  • Music Man 5 years ago

    Jay is the BEST! He is funny and has lots of different ideas that keep you watching!

  • Mike 5 years ago

    David Letterman.

  • Yvette 5 years ago

    Letterman all the way!!!!!!!

  • unaffected 5 years ago

    Rarely watch either but if i do it is Letterman. Leno is lame personified.

  • yahoo 5 years ago

    Letterman should have retired. He was and he always be only second to Leno.

  • RG 5 years ago

    Letterman's jokes are kinda desperate. He keeps doing bring segments and trying too hard to be funny. It all comes out that Letterman is the joke.

  • Susan 5 years ago

    Letterman is terrible. Glad to see Jay Leno back. I hope he beats Letterman in the ratings all the time.

  • danielle 5 years ago

    the reason why letterman is doing so well is because leno moved his show to 11:30 and so many people are so tired and laying in bed that they are so overtired that they think leno is actually good.... take it from someone who knows; my father works for letterman

  • T man 5 years ago

    leno wouldnt be bad if it werent for the fact that everything has to be about him.when he conducts an interview he steals his guests punch line when they are telling their stories to get the laugh himself.i havent even tried to watch this guy since i tuned in for the last late show aniversary show, expecting to see a homage to jack parr, steve allen,and johnny carson,the people who really made that show,and instead this jerk says hes going to retire in five yrs. thereby once again usurping the lime light for himself.parr,laid the foundation,allen built this show,and carson made it an institution.leno just ruined it,and thats all about him so he would be happy with what ive said,the selfish ass.

  • Mike 5 years ago

    Leno's humor is so utterly lame!! WHY in the world do people continue to watch this garbage?? He is funny at all!! Sure, Letterman's and Connan's humor is just a step above Monty Python's dry English humor. But they're light years funnier than that self-centered jerk, Leno!!!!

  • Cindy 5 years ago

    For me it's Letterman all the way! Leno used to be funnier before he started trying to please everyone. His opening on his show s self-serving and obviously narcissistic view of himself. But even before Leno lost his edge, Letterman was always my preference! Johnny had the best instincts! He wanted Letterman to succeed him. Johnny was great! Dave is great! Leno loves cars, and is somewhat funny. Dave is a brillliant interviewer, an excellent host, and a gifted comedian.

  • Marsha 514 5 years ago

    Silly to bring up 'Carson liked Letterman Better' since JAY LENO got the job and has been #1 continuously. It wasn't his choice to leave or go on at 10 PM, but he bowed out gracefully and when asked to come back he did so with a vengance. His monolog is quick and witty, his 'Jay Walking' is hilarious, his new spots are original and a quick chuckle, you can't beat his 'headlines' and his interviews can be counted on to be spontaneous, funny, and in good spirit. He will always have found some long forgotten view of a guest that we all enjoy seeing and have them share some personal side of themselves that we have not before known. I love JAY JUST THE WAY HE IS. Oh, the band is a pleasant improvement also. Nothing personal, Dave, but you put me to sleep.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    I don't know how anyone watches Leno, rehashed jokes and stuff he stole from his apperances on Letterman. He's not even a funny guy either, he just sounds like he continously does cocaine.

  • Mark Ham 3 years ago

    Leno makes me laugh...I don't trust Letterman, creepy guy.

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