Latenight might

Leno's 'Tonight' stays on top in key demo

David Letterman may be closing the gap on Jay Leno in total viewers, but Leno’s “Tonight Show” remains a powerhouse in key young-adult demographics, claiming its biggest November sweeps margins ever over Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The NBC latenighter inched a tenth of a point ahead of its year-ago November 18-49 average while “Late Show” held steady, giving “Tonight” a best-yet 53% margin for November (with a 2.6 rating, 12 share vs. “Letterman’s” 1.7/8). “Leno’s” past November 18-49 margins were 47% in 1998, 27% in 1996 and 8% in 1995.

In adults 18-34, “Tonight” (2.1/11, even with last year) also enjoyed its biggest November edge over “Letterman” (1.3/7, down a tenth).

Adding older viewers

“Letterman” added older viewers in big numbers this November, helping the CBS talker close the total-viewers gap by an impressive 581,000. “Late Show” improved from last year’s 2.42 million deficit to just 1.84 million this November. It was “Letterman’s” closest major-sweeps finish by this measure (excluding the 1998 Winter Olympics) since November 1996 (Daily Variety, Dec. 6).

For the recently completed sweeps, “Letterman” was up 54% vs. last year in men 50-and-older (2.0/9 vs. 1.3/7) and up 29% in women 50-plus (2.7/12 vs. 2.1/9). “Leno” still has the larger 50-plus audience (2.3 million vs. 1.8 million).

Making progress

Season-to-date, “Letterman” has made 18-49 progress, up a tenth vs. last fall while “Leno” is down a tenth, so the two talkshows currently stand at 2.4/12 and 1.7/8 in the demo.

Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only viewers watching TV during the slot involved.

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