Just as daytime and early morning are strong dayparts for advertisers to reach women, late night is a similarly strong time for reaching men.
And advertisers and media agencies agree on their unique view of the daypart.
"We take a totally platform-agnostic approach and ignore broadcast vs. cable in late night," says one buyer, who did not wish to speak for attribution. "We look at all the shows, whether it be [NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay] Leno or [CBS' Late Show with David] Letterman, [Comedy Central's] The Daily Show [with Jon Stewart] or [TBS'] Conan O'Brien, as opportunities for our clients. We also look outside the traditional talk shows to things like [Cartoon Network's] Adult Swim and [E!'s] Chelsea Lately as opportunities."
The biggest distinction, he continues, "is age and appropriate fit for our clients. Letterman and Leno are very old, while Conan and the Daily Show deliver a much younger audience. But the bottom line is that there are a lot of options for advertisers in late night, which is a great thing."
Another buyer adds, "Late night offers good quality live programming that is not overpriced," maybe 40 percent cheaper than primetime.
Another late night show that has high demand among advertisers is the once weekly, veteran sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live on NBC. But while most of the networks allow advertisers to cherry-pick shows when buying ad time in late night, media buyers said NBC requires advertisers who want to be in SNL to buy it in packages with NBC's other late night shows.
But that is not unusual for a high demand show with limited inventory, though it happens a lot more in primetime.
Conan and his lead out on TBS, George Lopez' Lopez Tonight, have the youngest median age of the late night talk shows, each at 32. Stewart is next at 40. Then comes NBC's Last Call With Carson Daly at 47 and NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 49. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live has a median viewer age of 51, CBS' Late Late Show with Craig Feguson is 52. and Leno and Letterman are 56.
And while Letterman might be perceived to have a younger audience than Leno, for the season to date, according to Nielsen numbers, Leno actually is averaging about 10,000 more men 18-34, an insignificant number but one that debunks the perception that Letterman's audience is much younger.
In fact, Jon Stewart draws the most young men 18-34 per night, averaging 353,000 compared to 278,000 for Conan, 178,000 for Leno and 167,000 for Letterman.
But Conan has clearly put TBS on the late night map, even though his viewership has leveled off since he premiered last fall. And his presence has brought in a sizable amount of new ad dollars to TBS.
"Conan may not be the runaway hit Turner expected, but it is a nice calling card for them in late night," one buyer says.
It will be interesting to see what buyers are willing to pay for commercials on Conan in this upfront based on a season's worth of viewer numbers. In last year's upfront, Turner sought, and in many instances got, cost-per-thousand rates close to the broadcast late night shows.
One interesting note in late night is the emergence of long-running ABC news show Nightline as the leader in total viewers, averaging 3.9 million per night, beating both Leno and Letterman. Nightline also averages more adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 than its two talk show competitors. It's the first time that Nightline has been in first place in the demo categories since the 1993-94 season, Letterman's first on CBS. And it is drawing its most viewers per night since 2003.
The one minor difficulty for ABC is that most advertisers don't want Nightline packaged with ABC's late night talker Jimmy Kimmel, so the network has to sell it in conjunction with its evening news or early morning show packages. Packaging it with another daypart makes selling commercial time a little more challenging, but with the viewer numbers so strong, it's a good problem to have for ABC.
Unlike the daytime and evening news dayparts which have more limited inventory on the broadcast side, there is much more ad inventory available in late night, so it is not expected that the late night talk shows will come close to selling out in the upfront. And also because of the broad amount of inventory and large amount of cable options in late night, pricing increases for broadcast late night in the upfront will probably be much lower than broadcast prime.
But clearly, advertisers are liking the increased competition and options offered in late night and it is still expected to be a robust upfront daypart.