Letterman leads Leno with Olympics boost

Notches ratings win for first time since September '96

CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” carried the Olympic torch into latenight this week, notching wins against NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and ABC’s “Nightline” in Nielsen’s 38 overnight markets for the first time since September 1996.

But who cares? Not “Late Show” exec producer Rob Burnett.

“I said this when we were winning, I said this when we were losing, and I’m saying it again now that we’re winning: I don’t care about the ratings. I just want to do the funniest show,” Burnett told Daily Variety Thursday.

Nevertheless, Dave’s performance in the latenight slalom was notably boosted by the Olympics, suggesting that the show would be more competitive with NBC’s Leno if CBS’ primetime numbers were as strong as NBC’s.

Wednesday’s edition of “The Late Show” scored a 5.5 household rating and 14 share in the overnight markets, compared with a 5.1/14 for “The Tonight Show” and a 5.4/13 for “Nightline.” Letterman also topped Leno on Monday night, with a 5.5/13 to Leno’s 5.3/15. Tuesday’s “Late Show” was delayed nearly an hour by Olympic overruns.

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