The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

« Previous Post | The Big Picture Home | Next Post »

Conan's TBS debut sells out in one key department: Movie ads

November 9, 2010 |  4:04 pm

Conan_obrien As my colleague Scott Collins notes in his post today, the premiere of Conan O'Brien's new TBS talk show put the whooping stick to all his late-night rivals, with "Conan" scoring a heady 4.2 million total viewers. That catapulted him ahead of not only "The Daily Show" (with 1.3 million viewers) and "The Colbert Report" (1 million viewers) but NBC's "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (3.5 million viewers) and CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" (3.4 million viewers).

But more importantly, if "Conan" can keep its numbers up--granted, a big if--it might turn out to be the one late-night show that delivers those hard-to-find young viewers that advertisers crave. The median age for an O'Brien viewer is 30. Stewart and Colbert's viewers are nearly 10 years older; the median age of Letterman's viewers is 53, while Leno's viewers' average age is nearly 60.

If you're a movie marketer, a show drawing 60-year-olds, even millions of 'em, isn't exactly an advertising gold mine, that is unless you're going after every Harrison Ford fan on the block. So it's no surprise that "Conan" literally sold out its opening-night block of movie ads, with nearly every studio buying time for an upcoming film. NBC/Universal, whose network was O'Brien's former home, was one of the few media giants to steer clear of "Conan," even though Universal has a young-skewing sci-fi thriller due out this weekend in "Skyline." Maybe they were worried about hurting Jay Leno's feelings.

But virtually every other studio in town bought into the "Conan" debut in a big way. "Everyone knew it would be an event, so every studio figured it would be a great place to show their wares," said one veteran movie marketer. "These days people are desperate for eyeballs, especially for viewers who don't normally watch late-night TV. So everyone was making a bet that 'Conan' would get a lot of younger viewers showing up, just to see what the all the hubbub was about."

"Conan's" movie ad buys could drop off somewhat after this week. But if the show's numbers hold up, especially his numbers among younger viewers, his show could wrestle away a lot of the ads that have traditionally gone to "The Daily Show." I'm just hoping that Conan gets more guests like opening-night visitor Seth Rogen, who didn't feel obligated to act like a walking billboard, since he doesn't even have a new movie coming out till next year.

Photo: Conan O'Brien, making his debut on the new late-night TBS show, "Conan."  Credit: Meghan Sinclair/Associated Press/Conaco LLC for TBS