Little change in O'Brien, Letterman ratings battle

There doesn’t appear to be much latenight remote flipping when it comes to the budding battle between David Letterman and Conan O’Brien.

After nearly three months opposite each other, O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” on NBC continues to draw more adult viewers under 55 even as Letterman’s “Late Show” on CBS has a comfy edge in total viewers (by virtue of a big advantage among the 55-plus crowd).

Perhaps most telling is what has happened in weeks when one of the two has aired repeats.

Last week, with Letterman in originals and O’Brien in repeats, the NBC show still prevailed by a healthy 20% among adults 18-49 (1.28 million vs. 1.07 million), winning every night (including one tie). O’Brien also won by a razor-thin margin in the slightly older demo of adults 25-54, while Letterman drew roughly 1 million total viewers more (3.41 million vs. 2.47 million).

These results follow a two-week stretch earlier in the month when Letterman repeats beat O’Brien originals in total viewers.

In both cases, there wasn’t much of a ratings bounce for the show in originals, suggesting that auds have settled on their fave for the hour.

ABC’s half-hour “Nightline” is a formidable competitor at 11:35 p.m. as well, last week finishing neck-and-neck with the Letterman originals in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers.

When it comes to the fall, CBS is hoping that promotion during football and the Eye’s dominance in key demos in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour will funnel more adults 18-49 to Letterman.

And NBC must be hoping that having the older and broader audience profile of Jay Leno during the 10 o’clock hour will help recruit auds to O’Brien where he’s most deficient: the 40-plus crowd.

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