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

  • Grime Star Stormzy Joins Upcoming BBC

    Grime Star Stormzy Joins Roc Nation Exec Produced BBC Drama ‘Noughts & Crosses’

    “Noughts and Crosses” just added another musical heavy hitter with grime supremo Stormzy set to star in the adaptation of the Malorie Blackman novels for the BBC. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation is already on board and will exec produce, as will Participant Media. Stormzy has an on-screen role and will play Kolawale, a newspaper editor and [...]

  • Cineflix Alum Launches New Banner Fugitive,

    Cineflix Alum Launches New Banner Fugitive, Tees Up Alex Gibney, Yolanda Ramke Shows

    Anthony Kimble, formerly of Cineflix, National Geographic, and Viacom’s Channel 5, has launched Fugitive and will develop, finance, and exec produce drama and unscripted TV through the new banner. Its first projects include “Uncanny Valley: The Truth About Thinking Machines,” which comes from producers Topic and Jigsaw. A series about A.I. and the future of [...]

  • Cineflix Rights Scoops Icelandic Political Series

    Cineflix Rights Scoops Icelandic Political Series 'The Minister'

    Cineflix Rights, a leading U.K. content distributor, has acquired “The Minister,” the anticipated political drama series headlined by Icelandic star Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”). Produced by the Icelandic company Sagafilm, “The Minister” centres on Benedikt Ríkhardsson (Ólafsson), a populist politician who becomes Iceland’s Prime Minister. However, Benedikt is suffering from [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna'Jane

    Rachel Bloom on the 'Beautiful Mystery' of the 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Series Finale

    While four seasons of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” have explored musical genres from boy bands to country, the one type of music series co-creator and star Rachel Bloom admits the show will not explore before the end is Rebecca’s own style. “Basically the idea is that part of the music in her mind is her looking inside [...]

  • Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film,

    Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film, Documentary Features Head

    In the wake of Bela Bajaria’s recent move to lead Netflix’s international non-English original TV series, the online streamer is shuffling its leadership team to more clearly distinguish between development of its English and non-English language content. As a result, Netflix has elevated Lisa Nishimura to vice president of independent film and documentary features, a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content