CBS' primetime domination sows latenight victory

Domination by CBS in the final half-hour of primetime is contributing to a shift in the latenight ratings race, where the Eye’s shows fronted by David Letterman and Craig Ferguson both defeated their NBC rivals in key demos last week. Ferguson’s “Late Late Show,” which bowed in January 2005, posted its first outright 18-49 victory to date over NBC’s “Late Night,” according to national estimates from Nielsen. After finishing in a virtual tie in some weeks this season, “Late Late Show” averaged 747,000 adults 18-49 during the week of Nov. 2-6, while NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” drew 712,000.

The Eye won as well in adults 25-54 and in total viewers (1.86 million vs. 1.26 million).

CBS also led last week at 11:35 p.m. with “Late Show With David Letterman” (1.22 million adults 18-49, 3.88 million viewers overall) over NBC’s “Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” (1.21 million adults 18-49, 2.33 million viewers overall).

And for the season to date, “Late Show” leads “Tonight Show” by 10% in 18-49 — after trailing the Jay

Leno-hosted “Tonight” at this point a year ago by 15%. And it’s not even close in total viewers, where “Late Show” holds a 72% advantage (4.31 million vs. 2.50m) compared to trailing by 17% last year (3.95m vs. 4.76m).

While Leno’s absence in latenight has certainly helped the Eye’s “Late Show” and “Late Late Show,” it’s also clear that NBC is suffering at the close of primetime with Leno’s new 10 p.m. skein — and this effect has become even more pronounced during a sweeps month when the competing dramas pump up the storylines.

Last week, excluding Tuesday when election coverage led to some preemptions and therefore wasn’t included in the averages, CBS averaged a 2.9 rating in adults 18-49 in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour compared to a 1.4 rating for NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show.” (ABC averaged a 2.5). And in adults 25-54, the 10:30 p.m. half-hour averages were CBS 3.9, ABC 2.9 and NBC at just 1.6.

Another latenight talker gaining ground on NBC is ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which last week drew a larger 18-49 audience than NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” for the first time (720,000 vs. 712,000) while also prevailing in total viewers (1.70 million to 1.26 million). Kimmel’s Thursday, featuring Elizabeth Mitchell of “V” and Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy,” drew the show’s largest nightly audience since June (2.02 million).

“Kimmel” got a boost from ABC News’ “Nightline,” which was the top-rated latenight show last week in adults 18-49 (1.31 million) and tied with Letterman for the lead in total viewers (3.88 million). Show gained ground with coverage of the Fort Hood, Texas, massacre.

Meanwhile, ABC scored a big primetime ratings victory on Wednesday with the 43rd annual “CMA Awards” (5.3/14 in 18-49, 17.18 million viewers overall), which won each half-hour and was up vs. last year by 6% in 18-49. Show, which prominently featured the popular Taylor Swift, also logged its best women 18-34 score in six years (5.8/16) and its largest overall aud in four years.

On the rise were CBS laffers “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 7.20m) and “Gary Unmarried” (2.4/6, 7.30m), which benefited from a lack of ABC comedy competish. Also, “CSI: NY” (3.8/10, 14.51m) drew its best scores since its season preem with the second part of the net’s “CSI Trilogy.”

Meanwhile, NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU” (2.8/7, 8.77m) hit a season high at 9, but “The Jay Leno Show” (1.4/4, 4.71m) fumbled away half of that lead-in. And Fox’s “Glee” (3.4/9, 7.53m) looked good in its return following its baseball-dictated hiatus despite facing the tough “CMAs.”

At the halfway point of the November sweep, World Series-fueled Fox led in adults 18-49 (4.1/11), followed by ABC (2.9/8), CBS (2.8/8) and NBC (2.3/6). Fox also had the edge in total viewers (12.0 million), followed by CBS (11.2 million), ABC (10.2 million) and NBC (6.9 million).

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