CBS: Dave Posts Largest Weekly Eyeball Victory Over 'Tonight Show' Since 2000; Conan's 18-to-49 Demo Lead Fading Fast

UPDATED: So how is NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker going to spin this with The New York Times‘ Bill Carter? Remember when, a few weeks back, a NBC press release called Conan O’Brien the “King Of Late Night TV”? Looks kinda premature now, huh? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, NBC’s mantra that “We don’t need eyeballs as long as we have key demos” doesn’t fly. Actually, both count. But last week David Letterman posted his largest weekly victory over The Tonight Show since 2000, while last week’s Tonight Show posted its smallest audience since Dave premiered in August 1993. (Letterman was aided by the booking of Sir Paul McCartney last night). “This does not bode well for the fall,” a CBS exec warned. Here’s what is worse: Dave’s Late Show also matched Conan’s Tonight Show in adults 25-to-54. Plus, O’Brien scored The Tonight Show‘s lowest advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 rating since Letterman premiered on CBS. Even Conan’s margin of strength — 18-to-34 — has fallen one full ratings point since O’Brien’s premiere week on The Tonight Show. How can Zucker take that to the bank? Because Madison Avenue knows full well that if they want younger audiences with fewer eyeballs, they can buy ads on cable, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than prime time. Adding insult to injury, Letterman also scored 5 Emmy nominations this morning. Here’s the CBS bitchslap, er, news release:

CBS’s LATE SHOW beat “The Tonight Show” by its largest margin in viewers since 2000, placed first in adults 25-54 (tie) and narrowed the margin in adults 18-49 opposite Conan O’Brien to just -0.3 of a rating point, according to Nielsen live plus same day ratings for the week ending July 10.

LATE SHOW beat “The Tonight Show” in households (2.6/07 vs. 2.0/05, +30%) and viewers (3.68m vs. 2.82m, +30%). It was LATE SHOW’s largest margin of victory against an all first-run week of “Tonight Show” broadcasts in both households and viewers since the week ending Feb. 25, 2000 (the week David Letterman returned from heart surgery). LATE SHOW has also closed the gap with “The Tonight Show” in adults 25-54 (1.2/05) to a tie, CBS’s closest competitive position since the week ending Dec. 2, 2005 (the week Oprah Winfrey appeared).

In adults 18-49 (0.8/04 vs. 1.1/05) , LATE SHOW continued to cut “The Tonight Show’s”‘ lead: -1.4 in Conan O’Brien’s premiere week, -0.6 in the week ending June 12, -0.5 in the week ending June 19 and -0.3 in the week ending July 10. Among adults 18-34 (0.5/02 vs. 1.1/05), LATE SHOW has cut “The Tonight Show’s” lead from -1.6 in Conan O’Brien’s premiere week to -0.6 in the week ending July 10.

Last night’s broadcast, featuring Sir Paul McCartney, topped “The Tonight Show” by its largest margin since Oct. 16, 2008 (Sen. John McCain’s appearance).

This morning, LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN was nominated for five Emmy Awards including “Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series.”

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