Leno's lead gets longer, 'Today' dominates mornings

Latenight host Jay Leno hit the ratings jackpot as the TV season opened last week, putting even more distance between himself and competitor David Letterman.

According to Nielsen Media Research, NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” doubled last year’s premiere week advantage over CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” in the key demo of adults 18-49.

The Peacock’s latenight sweep didn’t end there. “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and “Last Call With Carson Daly” also made a strong showing, particularly in adults 18-49, with both shows matching Letterman’s draw.

Leno’s 71% margin of victory in adults 18-49 — compared to last year’s 35% — was his biggest for a premiere week in five years. O’Brien matched its highest weeklong average in three years, while Daly tied its highest rating ever.

“Tonight” all nights

Leno dominated on all five nights, beginning on Sept. 22, when California gubernatorial candidates filled the aud. “Tonight” beat “Late Show” by a 50% margin despite Letterman’s high- profile guest for the evening, Dr. Phil McGraw.

For the week, “Tonight” averaged a 2.4/11 in adults 18-49 and 6.3 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen. “Late Show” averaged a 1.4/7 in adults 18-49 and 4 million viewers overall.

O’Brien’s show averaged 1.4/9 in adults 18-49 and 2.7 million viewers overall, dominating CBS’ “The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn,” which averaged 0.7/5 among adults 18-49 and 1.7 million viewers overall. O’Brien also dominated the overlapping “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC.

Daly’s “Last Call” also beat out Kimmel and Kilborn in 18-49.

‘Today’ lead shrinks

Elsewhere in fringe ratings, NBC’s “Today” continued to dominate the morning weekday landscape as the new TV season bowed. However, both ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CBS’ “The Early Show” gained ground.

Of the three programs, “The Early Show” saw the most impressive gains vs. premiere week last season — up 22% in women 18-49 and 27% in women 25-54.

Show was also up 9% in total viewers.

“Good Morning America” was up 4% among adults 25-54 and up 3% in women 25-54 compared to the same week last year.

At NBC, “Today” was down 3% among adults 25-54.

For the week, “Today” averaged 5.7 million viewers; “Good Morning America,” 4.5 million; and “Early Show,” 2.8 million.

‘Meet’ beats heap

Last Sunday, NBC’s “Meet the Press” continued its longstanding lead over the competish, CBS’ “Face the Nation” and ABC’s recently revamped “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

“This Week” beat “Face the Nation” by 222,000 viewers, its largest advantage over the Eye since March.

Daytime lineups at NBC (2.1/13) and ABC (2.0/13) opened the season within competing distance of each other in the key demo of women 18-49, with CBS not far behind (1.8/12).

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