TBS spent big bucks to land Conan O’Brien because they hoped he would lure young comedy fans back to late night. So far, the bet seems to be paying off: TBS has just released data showing that, during its first two months on the air, Conan was the No. 1 show in late night among viewers under 50. O’Brien’s show is averaging about 1.44 million viewers in the adults 18 to 49 demo, about 100,000 more than nemesis Jay Leno (1.35 million) and substantially more than CBS’s David Letterman (1.16 million) and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show/Colbert Report tandem (about 829,000 for the hour). There’s a catch to the figures, though: TBS’s numbers are so-called “live plus seven” figures, which mean they counts folks who catch up on Coco within a week of each show’s broadcast. Late-night shows historically haven’t bragged about getting huge bumps from DVRs, but Conan seems to be an exception, adding up to 20 percent more viewership via time-shifting. So is it fair to count DVR data?
Well, the broadcast networks certainly seem to think so. NBC each week issues season-to-date ratings for Leno (and the other late-night shows) based on a mix of DVR and live viewership. And during the early part of the season, CBS issued a release noting how many viewers its prime-time shows gained via DVR viewership. A more legitimate caveat to these early Coco DVR ratings is the fact that they include O’Brien’s first week on the air, when he averaged more than 2 million viewers under 50 (and that’s not including DVR viewing). That big open no doubt inflated Conan’s first-quarter score a bit. Still, there’s no denying O’Brien skews far younger than the late-night vets: The average age of his audience is 33, while Jon Stewart’s is 42, and Dave and Jay are 56.