Late-Night Ages and Dwindles But for 'Nightline,' It's Still Good to Be King
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/11/2012 2:33:24 PM
And ABC's half-hour news show, Nightline, continues to reign as the king of late-night on the broadcast networks. This past season it averaged 3.84 million viewers per night, down 140,000 viewers from the previous season. Nightline also aged up a year to a median age audience of 57.2.
NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno averaged 3.63 million viewers per telecast this season, down 270,000. Its audience also aged up a year and a half to 57.5.
Third in audience among the late-night shows was CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, which averaged 3.14 million viewers, down 350,000. The Letterman median age audience stayed about the same at 55.6.
ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, which airs at midnight following Nightline, and comes on a half-hour into both Leno and Letterman, averaged 1.77 million viewers, up 50,000, making it the only late-night show to increase its nightly audience average. However, Kimmel's median audience age rose to 53.3 from 51.6.
In the battle for 12:30 a.m. supremacy, NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon averaged 1.69 million viewers, down 30,000, while CBS' The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson averaged 1.47 million viewers, down 240,000. Fallon's median age audience jumped by more than three years to 52.6, while Ferguson's stayed about the same at 52.2.
While it's no surprise that Nightline draws the largest number of 55-plus viewers-2.1 million per night-it also draws the most 18-34 viewers at 347,000, slightly more than Leno, 50,000 more than Letterman, about 100,000 more than Kimmel and Fallon, and about 150,000 more than Ferguson.
And Nightline won the battle for 18-49 viewers, averaging 1.15 million in the demo each night, compared to 1.07 million for Leno and 1.03 for Letterman. Fallon averaged 674,000 in the 18-49 demo, Kimmel averaged 668,000 and Ferguson averaged 592,000.
Among viewers 25-54, Nightline averaged 1.51 million viewers; Leno, 1.39 million; Letterman, 1.33 million; Kimmel, 831,000; Fallon, 819,000; and Ferguson, 748,000.
Here's another indication that late night is aging up-both Kimmel and Fallon added about 100,000 55-plus viewers this past season.
So why has Nightline been so good at keeping the crown as broadcast TV's late-night leader?
"I think Nightline is doing well because it's counter programming to the comedic talk shows but also because it's a good show," says Brad Adgate, senior VP, research at Horizon Media. "There are not too many in-depth news programs on TV these days. The cable networks offer opinion and editorial comments on most of their nightly news programming. They are not necessarily offering any in-depth news. It's surprising how successful Nightline has become. It wasn't so long ago that ABC was courting David Letterman to replace Nightline which was then hosted by Ted Koppel."
And why is overall late-night viewing edging down a bit?
"I think it's dwindling because of competition in late-night from cable and online websites, where younger viewers are going," Adgate says. "I think the median ages are rising because of the success of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming, Comedy Central's late-night block and Conan [on TBS]. I also think that in this new Internet era, more of the late-night comedy skits and routines each night are appearing online either on the networks' own sites or on sites like YouTube. The younger audiences are able to see them without watching the entire shows."
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