UPDATED with national stats: David Letterman’s final Late Show bagged 13.76m viewers last night – his biggest audience since February 25, 1994 when he followed CBS’s primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics. In the demo, his 3.1 rating, and among adults 25-54 his 4.1 rating are his best showing since Oprah came to kiss and make up on the show, on December 1, 2005.  In addition to thumping all his late night competitors, Letterman outstripped every broadcast primetime show in all of these metrics.

Last night’s sentimental guest-free finale, which ran about 18 minutes long,  included a celebrity-studded Top-10 list reading. 

For comparison sake, that night in ’05 when Oprah turned up, ending a years-long “feud,” 13.5 million people tuned in to see how that drama would play out (those 13.5 mil saw her allow Dave to escort her across the street on that broadcast to drop her off/plug the premiere of her B’way adaptation of The Color Purple).   And Letterman’s debut as host of Late Show had attracted an average of  15.2 million viewers in August of 1993. And another much-watched episode, marking Letterman’s return to the show following heart surgery, averaged 11.7 million same-day viewers on February 21, 2000. Foo Fighters, who performed Dave fave tune “Everlong” last night, had performed the same number to welcome Dave when he came back after a months-long absence following the heart surgery.

After the Foo Fighters played him off and Late Show wrapped, around 1 AM ET today, Late Late Show with James Corden clocked 4.01 million viewers – the biggest audience ever for the franchise with any host. Corden scored a 1.4 in adults 25-54 and 1.1 in adults 18-49. That’s the franchise’s best delivery in adults 25-54 since December 1, 2005 and best adults 18-49 rating since December 19, 2005.

Here’s how Corden opened his show following Letterman’s finale:


PREVIOUS, based on preliminary stats:  The final night of Late Show With David Letterman out-rated every primetime broadcast last night in metered markets and trounced his late-night competition, according to preliminary stats.

With a sentimental guest-free show that included a celebrity-studded Top-10 list reading, Dave clocked his highest metered-market ratings, 9.3/24, since December 1, 2005 (10.1/24). That was the night Oprah made her much ballyhooed kiss-and-make-up visit to the show, so Dave could walk her to the nearby theater where Oprah-produced The Color Purple was premiering. When the dust settled, 13.5 million people had watched that night.

By the time Foo Fighters played Dave off last night, the clock was about to strike 1 AM, Late Show having run about 18 minutes long.

In Nielsen’s 56 metered markets, Letterman pummeled NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2.0/5) and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live (1.3/3); Kimmel’s show ran a repeat. In the 25 markets with Local People Meters, Letterman’s demo 2.8/14 killed Fallon’s 0.8/4 and Kimmel’s 0.5/2.

With Letterman’s swansong as its lead-in, Late Late Show With James Corden (2.6/10) nabbed a new high, up 79% compared to last week (1.4/05) and 150% from last year (1.0/03) despite the 1-2 AM broadcast time. Corden’s usual competition, NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, running in its regular 12:35-1:35 AM ET timeslot, logged a 1.0/3. Corden also finished ahead of Meyers in the demo, in the 25 markets with LPM: Corden 0.8/6, Meyers 0.4/3.