Friday, January 4, 2008

The Late Night Debate - WGA Approved Shows Close the Gap

Wednesday night's ratings came out and I sighed a little bit at the "car wreck" fascination Americans apparently had as they overly sampled Leno and Conan (who were back at work without writers). Both shows were up considerably in the ratings from their pre-strike averages (Wednesday: Leno 5.5/12, up 47%, Conan 2.5/8, up 56%). Please note that the only late-night ratings I'm able to receive/find are overnights for the 55 Metered Markets. Places like TVWeek occasionally post national data late in the day or the day after the overnights come out.

Meanwhile, unstruck company Worldwide Pants' two offerings were also up versus their last telecast, and with their writing teams intact. Letterman's Wednesday airing scored a 4.3/10, up 39% from his pre-strike average, while Ferguson got a 1.9/6, up 27%.

Do the math and that makes pre-strike ratings as follows (approximately):
- Leno: 3.7
- Letterman: 3.1
- Conan: 1.6
- Ferguson: 1.5

Thursday night, they scored the following numbers:
- Leno: 4.2/10 (-1.3, - 24% versus Wednesday, +0.5, +14% versus pre-strike average)
- Letterman: 3.8/9 (-0.5, -12%, +0.7, +23%)
- Conan: 2.1/7 (-0.4, -16%, +0.5, +31%)
- Ferguson: 1.8/6 (-0.1, -5%, +0.3, +20%)

This shows that there's still some "OMG there's new late night on" interest, as levels are well above pre-strike averages (and that the "premiere interest" faded), but it also is starting to show (yes, you can't tell a trend from two airings, but we'll follow this in the week to come) that the struck shows are suffering more than the ones with writers.

As well they should.

There's also the interesting case of Conan, whose show is still exhibiting a remarkable increase versus prior averages. With the big, media-hype machine focusing on the battle between Letterman and Leno (and now Leno and WGA... oy), Conan is flying under the radar. It's something to track, at least.

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