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Leno leads ‘Tonight’ to big first quarter

Letterman's Olymics boost doesn't derail Jay

NEW YORK — Despite the big ratings boost the Winter Olympics gave CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” scored its largest first-quarter audience since 1990.

“Tonight” averaged 6.5 million viewers during the first quarter of 1998, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show also posted a year-to-year gain in the first quarter for the fourth straight year.

While Leno had plenty to cheer about in the first quarter, another latenight personality, Bill Maher, host of ABC’s “Politically Incorrect,” was popping champagne to celebrate his ratings for the week ended Sunday, when “PI” scored its highest ratings yet.

The show delivered an average audience of 3.8 million viewers. Maher also hit his largest audiences ever among the key demographics of adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. “PI” averaged a 3.2/13 in households and a 1.8/12 in adults 18-49. That bested Letterman, who averaged a 2.7/8 in households and a 1.5/7 in adults 18-49.

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