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David Letterman notches first weekly ratings win over 'Tonight Show' since 2005

June 25, 2009 | 10:37 am

The late-night ratings race continues to evolve, with CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" notching its first total-viewer victory over NBC's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." Letterman had not logged a weekly victory over "The Tonight Show" since 2005.

For the week ending Friday, Letterman drew an average of 3.5 million total viewers, compared wih 3.3 million for O'Brien, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. O'Brien took over this month for Jay Leno, who routinely pulled in more than 5 million viewers.

The good news for NBC is that O'Brien has maintained a strong lead over Letterman in the advertiser-friendly demographic of adults aged 18 to 49, and "The Tonight Show" is doing particularly well among adults aged 18 to 34. For the week, O'Brien averaged a 1.3 rating/6 share in 18-49, far outpacing Letterman's 0.8 rating/3 share.

However, O'Brien's ratings in both total viewers and among young adults have been slipping since his June 1 premiere. In his heavily promoted inaugural week, "The Tonight Show" averaged a 2.3 rating/10 share. His 18 to 49 average has now drifted down to about where it was when Leno was hosting.

-- Scott Collins