You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dave a fan fave in his Eye opener

CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” kept plenty of viewers up past their bedtime Monday, grabbing numbers comparable to the premiere of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” back in May 1992.

The first night of Letterman’s heavily promoted CBS talkshow posted a wide-eyed 10.9 rating, 32 share in expedited Nielsen national ratings ordered by CBS, translating to about 23 million viewers. Leno started the post-Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” era with an 11.8/36 and an audience of nearly 25 million.

Letterman’s debut delivered a 13.4/34 in the 29 Nielsen overnight markets, topping the combined score of “Nightline” (6.3/15) and “Tonight” (5.6/14) by that standard.

It’s notable that the ABC and NBC shows both finished near their regular performance levels (“Tonight” had a 4.1/11 nationally), reflecting enhanced tune-in to check out the new Letterman series. National figures weren’t available for “Nightline.”

“Late Show’s” 19% drop off its overnight rating also underscores both delays in clearances (the show was carried “live” directly out of local news in 74% of the U.S., higher than the 68% CBS had projected) and Letterman’s urban skew. “Tonight,” which airs “live”in 99% of the U.S., fell about 14% nationally off Leno’s debut as permanent “Tonight” host last year, which did a 13.9/39 in the metered markets. The “Late Show” numbers not surprisingly included whopping appeal among key demographics, with an 8.8 rating among men 18-49 and 7.8 among women in that bracket, compared to a 2.2 and 2.8, respectively, for “Tonight.”

CBS has guaranteed advertisers an average 4.1 household rating for “Late Show ,” but acknowledged it’s too soon to tell whether it will achieve that target over the long haul. CBS/Broadcast Group senior VP, planning & research David Poltrack did say he expects ratings to remain at higher-than-usual levels through the week and predicted “Late Show” will benefit next week from the intro of “The Chevy Chase Show,” picking up viewers who stay up to sample Fox Broadcasting Co.’s latenight entry.

Monday’s results represented all-time bests for both CBS (with a regular latenight series) and Letterman, whose previous ratings high in 11 seasons on NBC was a 9.1/34 on May 22, 1992, following the final Carson-hosted episode of “The Tonight Show” (27.9/63).

More TV

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • WWE

    WWE and PP Sports Extend China Partnership

    WWE and PP Sports have signed a new multi-year agreement that will keep WWE programming airing live in Mandarin in China. In the past three years of the partnership, PP Sports has delivered more than 300 episodes of WWE programming. PP Sports will offer, “Raw,” “Smackdown, and the WWE Network as a subscription VOD service [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]


    TV News Roundup: 'Highwire Live in Times Square' Tops Sunday Night Ratings

    In today’s TV news roundup, ABC’s “Highwire Live in Times Square” tops Sunday night ratings, and “Total Bellas” has been renewed for a fifth season. DATES FX will air the special event “Peabody Presents: Stories of the Year” on July 7. The program will showcase the issues honored at the 78th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Scream' Series Moves From MTV to VH1 for July Debut

    The long-gestating third season of the “Scream” series is finally debuting–but not on its original network. Variety has confirmed that the series will air on VH1 instead of MTV as originally planned. “Scream” will debut on VH1 on July 8 and air two one-hour episodes back-to-back for three straight nights. The third season of the [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Video of Jussie Smollett With Rope Around His Neck Released by Chicago Police

    The Chicago Police Department released new surveillance footage and files in regards to the Jussie Smollett hoax case on Monday, including one that shows the “Empire” actor shortly after the alleged attack. In one of the videos, police body-cam footage shows authorities entering Smollett’s Chicago apartment, led by his manager, Frank Gatson. Smollett is found [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content