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Conan’s First-Night Ratings: Huge!

The kids love their Coco! First ratings are out for Monday's TBS debut of Conan, and while we're sticking by our campaign promise to not care too much about early numbers, we're obliged to report: They're pretty huge. The premiere drew 4.16 million viewers, a big improvement over the roughly 1 million or fewer Lopez Tonight has been drawing in the 11 p.m. time slot for TBS. (It's also more than double the 1.7 million who tuned in for Lopez's first show last November.) But the most impressive thing about Conan's first night is how young his average viewer was.

Per Nielsen (and TBS), the median age of a Conan viewer was just 30, far younger than Dave or Jay, whose average viewer is in his or her mid-50s. That's important, since advertisers pay a pretty penny (and yes, we just wrote "pretty penny" in 2010) for the privilege of reaching younger, free-spending viewers. And almost all of Coco's viewership Monday was under the age of 50: Of the 4.16 million who watched, 3.3 million were between the ages of 18 and 49.

As for the question that late-night-ratings junkies really want answered — how did Conan do vs. Jay and Dave? — the answer is a bit complicated. Conan airs from 11–12, which means it can take advantage of much higher audience levels in the 11–11:30 half-hour (just like The Daily Show, which spun an October victory that really wasn't), while the network shows run until 12:30 a.m., when audience levels shrink. Still, Conan had a pretty huge lead Monday, outdrawing both Dave and Jay in overall viewers and, particularly, adults 18–49. Indeed, among the latter group, Coco tripled the tune-in of most his rivals, including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. The Daily Show seemed to take a particular hit: Its overall audience Monday was 1.3 million viewers, down sharply from its season average of 1.8 million (and below the 1.35 million viewers who watched Lopez Tonight in the midnight hour.) Bottom line: an auspicious start for Conan — but still, just a start. Stay tuned!

Photo: TBS