NBC pads its Nielsen lead in latenight

Conan tops in late, late slot

NBC continued its mastery of the latenight ratings wars with a decisive May sweep victory, as Jay Leno opened up more distance on David Letterman.

ABC also had reason to smile with gains for its revamped “Nightline” and solid numbers for Jimmy Kimmel, and CBS’ Craig Ferguson held up well despite declines for its lead-in.

Looking at national Nielsens for the April 27-May 24 sweep period, NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” (1.9 rating/8 share in adults 18-49, 5.9 million viewers overall) easily topped CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” (1.4/6, 4.3 million), as the Peacock vet has won every sweep period for more than 10 years now.

Both 11:35 p.m. skeins declined year-to-year, but Leno’s lesser falloff meant his show opened up a 33% advantage in the 18-49 viewers advertisers love — up from last May’s 27% advantage.

NBC also led at 12:35 a.m., with “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” (1.1/6 in 18-49, 2.5 million) topping “Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson” (0.7/4 in 18-49, 2.0 million). O’Brien, who is poised to take over the earlier “Tonight Show” slot from Leno in 2009, has not lost a sweeps month in more than 11 years.

Both O’Brien and Ferguson were on par with last May, although the Eye entry gained slight ground in total viewers. And for the season, O’Brien’s advantage over Ferguson in 18-49 (1.0 to 0.7) was sliced from the previous year (1.2 to 0.7).

Over at ABC for the May sweep, “Nightline” (1.2/5 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall) was up from May 2005, when Ted Koppel was still host (1.0/4 in 18-49, 3.2 million) — the most significant growth for any latenight entry.

Lead-out “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (0.7/4 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall) was up slightly vs. last May in 18-49 and finished the season as broadcast television’s only latenight entertainment talkshow to show gains, rising in both demos and total viewers.

NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly,” the sole latenight broadcast entry airing past 1:35 a.m., averaged a 0.7/5 in 18-49 and 1.5 million viewers overall — even with last May. Despite its later start time, Daly’s show drew more adults 18-34 than either ABC’s Kimmel or CBS’ Ferguson.

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