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David Letterman sweeps ratings for first time since Jay Leno's return in March

November 4, 2010 | 10:24 am

Has the balance of power in late-night TV shifted yet again?

CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" has beaten NBC's "Tonight Show" in viewers and the key demographic groups for the first time since Jay Leno returned to the latter program last March.

Last week, Letterman averaged 3.8 million total viewers, compared with 3.6 million for Leno, according to figures published Thursday by the Nielsen Co.

In adults aged 18 to 49, the group most closely watched by most advertisers. Letterman averaged a 1.0 rating/4 share, compared with a 0.9 rating/4 share for Leno. For the previous three weeks, "Late Show" had tied "Tonight" but until now had not managed to slip past its longtime rival among young adults.

This is of course not the result NBC executives had hoped for. In January, NBC Universal Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin predicted Leno would reconnect with his fan base and that viewers across the country were largely uninterested in the corporate mess that resulted in Conan O'Brien being booted from "Tonight" and Leno resuming his place.

O'Brien's TBS show, by the way, starts Monday.

— Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: David Letterman. Credit: CBS.