Late Night Ratings Watch: Letterman Surges Ahead with News of Retirement


With last Thursday’s announcement that David Letterman will be retiring in 2015 came an expected surge in the ratings for CBS’ Late Show. While it was not enough for Letterman to overtake NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon for the week, it was enough to push him over the 3 million viewers mark, which has rarely happened of late.

Letterman was solidly in second place in total viewers with 3.148M (up from 2.856M the week before), though he still trailed Jimmy Kimmel Live! slightly in the 18-49 demo. Jimmy Fallon remained at #1 in both categories, though he dropped significantly in total viewers with 3.829M (down from 4.306M the week before).

By posting Letterman’s retirement announcement on YouTube before it aired that night on CBS, the Late Show also scored a major online victory, delivering the most-watched late night clip of the week with more than 3.2 million views. That’s what happens when you break genuine news.

Here’s the breakdown for the week of March 31-April 4, 2014, according to Nielsen’s “live plus same day” data:

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC): 3.829M total viewers, 1.18 rating in 18-49 demo

Late Show with David Letterman (CBS): 3.148M total viewers, 0.63 rating in 18-49 demo

Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC): 2.627M total viewers, 0.66 rating in 18-49 demo

And, since today’s late night viewers are not only watching on TV, here’s a look at the most popular video for each of the three shows last week on YouTube (as of Thursday, April 10th):

Late Show with David Letterman (CBS): David Letterman Announces His Retirement from the Late Show, 3,203,214 views

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Samuel L. Jackson Performs Slam Poem About “Boy Meets World”, 1,670,629 views

Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC): YouTube Challenge — Hey Jimmy Kimmel, Happy April Fools’, 329,009 views

In the 12:35pm slot, Late Night with Seth Meyers was down compared to the previous week to 1.627M total viewers and a 0.59 rating in the 18-49 demo. Perhaps feeding off of the Letterman increase, CBS’ Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was up slightly from the previous week to 1.420M total viewers and held steady at 0.39 in the demo.

By announcing Letterman’s departure — and eventual successor, Stephen Colbert — nearly a year before the ultimate transition happens, CBS has given viewers a new reason to tune in every night to a show that in many ways had started to feel stale in comparison to the fresher faces of Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. Letterman still has a ways to go before he could take over the #1 spot from Fallon, but at this rate, he could very well end his decades-long tenure on top.

Previously: Late Night Ratings Watch: With Fallon at #1, Letterman Beats Kimmel

[photos via screengrab]

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