O'Reilly, Colbert boost each other


The much-anticipated showdown between Bill O'Reilly and Stephen Colbert reaped strong ratings for both of their programs Thursday.

The anchors took turns interviewing each other on their respective programs, pushing Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" to its largest audience ever, 1.7 million total viewers, up 42% over the series' 2006 average.

Although "Colbert," which airs at 11:30 p.m., was topped by Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," which gleaned nearly 3 million at 8 p.m., "Colbert" scored more viewers in the 25-54 demo, 929,000 to "Factor's" 746,000.

However, "Factor" was still strong, running 46% higher in total viewers than it averaged in the fourth quarter of 2006, and 67% higher in the 25-54 demo.

Hailed by Colbert as a "meeting of the guts," the back-to-back interviews brought together the conservative commentator and the comedian who parodies him. Colbert welcomed the man he calls "Papa Bear" with a huge banner that read "Mission Accomplished" but also revealed at the end of his show that he stole a microwave from the "Factor" green room.