Leno also posts strong numbers for week of Feb. 16

NEW YORK — NBC latenight host Conan O’Brien’s recent flap with the Canadians turns out to have been a boon, with his ratings jumping to record levels as he officially apologized for offending his neighbors to the chilly north.

According to Nielsen, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” matched his highest adult 18-49 rating (1.5) in six years for the week of Feb. 16-20, and averaged 3.1 million viewers overall.

That was the week O’Brien returned from shooting his show in Canada. During one taped segment at the Quebec Winter Carnival, “Late Night” regular Triumph the Insult Dog called French Canadians “obnoxious.”

On Feb. 17, Triumph officially apologized, even speaking in French. (English subtitles revealed that Triumph was saying not-so-nice things about O’Brien.)

Latenight’s top-rated host, NBC’s Jay Leno, also posted strong numbers for the week of Feb. 16, smack in the middle of February sweeps. According to Nielsen, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” averaged a 2.6 rating in adults 18-49 and 6.2 million viewers overall, his best weekly showing in the demo since January 2001.

CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” averaged a 1.8 rating in the demo and 4.9 million viewers.

In other sweeps news for the week of Feb. 16, ABC News’ Sunday morning show “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” pulled ahead of CBS News’ “Face the Nation” for the first time in weeks, averaging 2.9 million total viewers to ABC’s 2.8 million, according to Nielsen. The show featured back-to-back interviews with 2004 Democratic prez candidates John Kerry and John Edwards.

“This Week” and “Face,” however, tied in the key news demo of adults 25-54, with a 0.9 rating. Fox Television’s “News Sunday” averaged 1.6 million viewers and a 0.6 rating in the demo.

NBC News’ “Meet the Press” continued to dominate overall, averaging 5.3 total viewers and posting a 1.7 rating in adults 25-54.

On weekday mornings, CBS News’ “The Early Show” was the only ayem program to post growth in key demos compared with the same week last year. The No. 3 morning show was up 8% in adults 25-54 (1.3 rating), delivering 3.2 million total viewers.

NBC’s “Today” (2.6 in adults 25-54, 6.3 million viewers) remained on top, with ABC’s “Good Morning America” second (2.0, 5.3 million).

In daytime, ABC’s soap lineup ranked No. 1 among women 18-49 (2.3 rating), while CBS’ soaps remained the most watched overall. NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” and ABC’s “General Hospital” topped the week in women 18-49 (tied at a 2.7 rating).

In kids, more than 2.1 million youngsters 2-11 tuned into Nickelodeon Saturday ayem Feb. 21 — its best ratings in six weeks, but still down 11% year-to-year. Kids WB captured 1.1 million kids, off 17% year-to-year.

Overall, only Cartoon and Disney displayed season-to-date growth with kids 2-11, up 2% and 12%. For the week, Cartoon drew 845,000 viewers to Disney’s 775,000.

(Lily Oei contributed to this report.)

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