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Santa’s staying up

Season festive for latenight's Leno, O'Brien

This holiday season, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien are discovering the joy of receiving — at least when generous viewers in Nielsen homes are doing the giving.

Leno’s “Tonight Show” wrapped the Dec. 13-17 week with its best ratings of the year, while O’Brien’s “Late Night” decked the competition with its jolliest results since December 1997.

Leno topped CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” by 1.3 rating points in adults 18-49 (with a 2.9 rating, 13 share vs. a 1.6/8), giving “Tonight” its widest margin over “Late Show” since May. ABC’s “Nightline” reported a 1.6/7.

Steady for year

Season-to-date, Leno and Letterman are holding steady vs. year-ago results in the 18-49 demo, with Leno’s 2.5/12 topping Letterman’s 1.6/8. Growth among older viewers has helped Letterman close the gap in total viewers, from a year-ago viewer deficit of 2.36 million to 1.90 million so far this fall.

“Late Night” also excelled during the Dec. 13-17 week, achieving its best 18-49 average (1.3/11) in two years and highest adults 25-54 tally (1.5/11) in the five years O’Brien has hosted the late-late talker.

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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