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A year after NBC upended its late-night world, order has quietly been restored: Jay Leno is back on “The Tonight Show” and topping the ratings virtually every week.
Conan O’Brien, who was displaced as host of the show, has moved to cable television and the other late-night hosts are maintaining their positions.
Some NBC executives have pointed to Mr. Leno’s slow but steady resumption of late-night leadership as vindication of the decision in January 2010 to end his brief run in prime time on “The Jay Leno Show” and reinstate him as host of “The Tonight Show.”
Mr. Leno, NBC executives say, is proving that the classic late-night show can be broadly appealing and still bring in more young viewers than any other entertainment show in the same time slot.
Mr. Leno did not come through his brief stint at 10 p.m. unscathed. Two years ago, his “Tonight” show averaged about five million viewers. This season it is down to about 3.9 million viewers.
The decline has been similar among 18- to 49-year-olds, a crucial measure for advertisers in late night, so the average age of his audience is up — way up from what it was under Mr. O’Brien.
But Mr. Leno still draws more viewers in that younger-adult group than any other late-night host. And with the ratings of most late-night shows declining (along with most of broadcast television), Mr. Leno’s diminished performance is still good enough to keep him ahead of David Letterman on CBS, who had moved into first place when Mr. O’Brien was host of “The Tonight Show.”
Monday, January 31, 2011
For Leno and NBC, All’s Right Again
From Bill Carter, NY Times:
Posted by Tom Benson at 5:50 AM