September 15, 2009, 11:45 am
Leno Ratings Exceed Expectations
By Bill Carter
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Jay Leno
NBC succeeded in creating a television event with the premiere of Jay Leno’s new prime time hour as almost 18 million viewers showed up. Mr. Leno’s audience was almost NFL sized - two games on NBC last week reached just over 20 million and were the most watched sports events since the Super Bowl.
For NBC the other good news was how broad the interest was in Mr Leno’s return. He scored a hit rating of 5.1 in the age group NBC most prizes - viewers between 18 and 49 (about 6.7 million viewers) - but he was even bigger with older groups, hitting a 6.2 rating among viewers 25 to 54 and a huge 10.8 rating among viewers over 50.
The show held viewers well through the hour, losing about 800,000 for the 10:30 half hour but it added younger viewers in that half hour.
NBC gave Mr. Leno the best lead-in it could with the finale of its hit summer talent series “America’s Got Talent,” which had a last half hour audience of 15.2 million. But Mr. Leno immediately improved on that, climbing to 18.1 million for his first half hour back on television after a three month absence.
NBC got a similar great start for Conan O’Brien in his first “Tonight Show” appearance as Mr. Leno’s replacmenrlt: He reached 9.2 million his first night. He’s levelled off since and NBC expects Mr. Leno to do the same. But for a first night his results exceeded most expectations.