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Letterman's blackmail scandal boosts ratings 22%

October 2, 2009 | 11:03 am


The blackmail scandal is already having a beneficial effect on David Letterman's ratings.

On Thursday, numbers for "Late Show with David Letterman" surged 22% based on preliminary estimates, according to the Nielsen Company. Letterman spent part of the program discussing a recent $2-million blackmail attempt and admitted that he had had affairs with female staffers on his show.

The program scored a 4.4 rating/12 share in household "overnight" numbers, handily beating "Late Show's" 3.6 rating/9 share so far this season. (Complete numbers, including total-viewer figures, will not be available until later.)

However, the Thursday show did not come close to a record. On Sept. 21, with President Obama as the sole guest, "Late Show" delivered a 5.6 rating/14 share. And when Oprah Winfrey appeared Dec. 1, 2005, the program hit an all-time high of a 10.1 rating/24 share.

Overall, however, Letterman is on a ratings roll. Long the No. 2 player in late night, the program has been on the upswing since June, when Conan O'Brien took over NBC's "Tonight Show" from Jay Leno.

During the first week of this season, "Late Show" logged an average of 5 million total viewers, up 28% compared with the same period last year. "Tonight Show" plunged 49%, to 2.4 million viewers.

-- Scott Collins

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Photo: This September 21, 2009 file photo shows US President Barack Obama (L) with David Letterman during a taping of "The Late Show with David Letterman" in New York. Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images