'Daily Show with Jon Stewart' Beats Jay Leno' in Q2 Demo Ratings

John Stewart-The Daily Show Publicity Still-2010
Courtesy of Comedy Central

Jon Stewart has unseated Jay Leno to take the late-night ratings crown in the all-important 18-49 demographic for the just ended second quarter. It is the first time in ten years – or 40 consecutive quarters – that NBC’s The Tonight Show has not won the quarterly demo ratings race.

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Granted the margin was slim: The Daily Show averaged 1.295 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic compared to The Tonight Show’s 1.292 million. CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman pulled in 1.096 million. 

It also comes with some caveats: The Daily Show airs at 11 p.m. for a half-hour when viewership levels are about 20 percent higher. The Tonight Show begins at 11:35 p.m. and runs for an hour. Also, The Daily Show win is based on original telecasts for all shows. Repeats on broadcast late night traditionally do better than their cable counterparts, which have more online viewers. With all regular telecasts including reruns, The Tonight Show out-delivers The Daily Show in the 18-49 demo 1.283 million viewers to 1.167 million.

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Still, Comedy Central’s one-two punch of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report dominates with younger viewers and men. Both shows finished the quarter as the top-rated late night shows on all of television among viewers 18-34 and men 18-34 and 18-24.

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The Daily Show averaged 2.2 million total viewers, up 9 percent quarter-over-quarter. The Colbert Report averaged 1.5 million total viewers with 960,000 in the demo, marking gains of 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

It is quite an achievement for Comedy Central; the network’s late-night franchises have been popular with younger viewers, but the 18-49 crown has remained elusive as broadcast late-night shows routinely pull in larger overall audiences.

Additionally, TBS’ Conan took the third spot among cable late-night talkers for the quarter. But Conan O’Brien’s show was overtaken in June by Chelsea Handler’s E! show Chelsea Lately, which edged out Conan in June among total viewers and the 18-49 and 18-34 demos. Chelsea Lately averaged 959,000 viewers in June compared to Conan’s 851,000. It is the first time since its premiere last November, that Conan has dropped below 1 million viewers.