Cabler doubling up demos

NBC, Comedy Channel maximizing Conan

Conan O’Brien has discovered the joy of multiplexing.

Comedy Central has inked a new one-year deal with NBC and NBC Enterprises to continue airing next-day repeats of NBC’s O’Brien-hosted “Late Night” through August 2004.

Gabfest has scored solid Nielsen numbers for the cabler. But the more intriguing story may be how the double-pumping of “Late Night” on both NBC and Comedy Central has helped the skein — which marks its 10th year in latenight this September — dramatically boost its profile among young adult auds.

Each episode of “Late Night” now airs three times within a 24-hour frame: At its normal 12:35 a.m. slot on NBC and at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. EDT on Comedy Central. The episode also eventually airs a few weeks later in the wee hours of the morning during NBC’s overnight rebroadcasts of “Late Night.”

Big auds

By adding up all four broadcasts, NBC estimates roughly 1.26 million viewers in the key 18-34 demo watch “Late Night” each day, according to Nielsen network and cable data from last fall. By comparison, NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” snags 1.12 million eyeballs in the demo, CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” draws 980,000 viewers and “Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn” brings in 470,000 viewers 18-34.

Among adults 18-49, the multiple “Late Nights” snag a few more viewers than Letterman and more than double what Kilborn brings in on a nightly basis.

To be sure, the cumulative numbers don’t directly translate into ad dollars for NBC; the Peacock doesn’t sell ad time for the Comedy Central repeats, for example.

And there’s no doubt the Leno and Letterman programs both pull in higher ad revenue than O’Brien’s skein.

Good all the way

But “Late Night” exec producer Jeff Ross believes the addition of the Comedy Central repeats has boosted the show’s overall audience profile and possibly even brought in new fans to the 12:35 a.m. mother ship.

“By being on Comedy Central and NBC, and with Conan hosting the Emmys last year, things just seem to have popped,” Ross said. “We’ve gotten over another threshold.”

While the Nielsen numbers prove more eyeballs are seeing “Late Night,” Ross thinks the repurposing has a value beyond simply adding more eyeballs to the skein’s overall tally.

“I know it’s anecdotal, but all of us on the show are hearing more and more about people who normally couldn’t see us but now are talking about the show,” Ross said. “It’s only three or four hundred thousand people (who watch on Comedy Central), but it’s the right three or four hundred thousand people.”

“Late Night” is currently the only latenight gabber to get a same-day second window on a cable network. Its success with the dual window experiment, however, could prompt the competish to seek similar deals.

Others may follow

With Viacom now taking full control of Comedy Central, for example, it might make sense for CBS to consider double-pumping “Late Show” on the yuks webs.

Ross, who exec produces “Late Night” with Lorne Michaels, also admits the show benefits from having been on for a decade now. NBC will mark the occasion with a 90-minute primetime special set to air Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 9:30-11 p.m.

Spec will tape at the Beacon Theater in Gotham, with guests to be announced closer to air.

Comedy Central execs said that while “Late Night” repeats have not been a monster hit on the cabler, they’ve proved to be a good fit with the net’s overall image.

“Conan has that young, hip upscale audience (advertisers) like,” said Kathryn Mitchell, senior VP of programming for Comedy Central. “And his sense of humor really fits in with our brand.”

More is better

Frances Manfredi, senior VP of cable sales at NBC Enterprises, noted that the deal between Comedy Central and the Peacock for “Late Night” has been successful in “expanding the viewer base for both parties.”

Mitchell said O’Brien has helped pump the repeats by taping “a myriad of promos” for Comedy Central. She said she expects the show to continue to build audience in its second season on the cabler.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” she said.

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