For the first time since Conan O’Brien took over NBC’s “Tonight Show” from Jay Leno, the show was beaten in the ratings on Tuesday night by David Letterman’s “The Late Show” on NBC. Indeed, O’Brien’s ratings had fallen each night since his June 1st debut.
As Conan began his second week in the time slot, Dave fired back with top-tier guests. Howard Stern on Monday pulled Letterman essentially even with O’Brien, a Household rating of 3.1 for NBC and 3.0 for CBS, then Julie Roberts on Tuesday pushed the CBS show ahead, with Letterman scoring a 3.4 to O’Brien’s 2.9.
To be sure, there were other factors on Tuesday night. The late finish of the NBA Finals game on ABC and Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” special shows from Iraq may have pulled away some viewers, young demos in particular. Regardless, the Nielsen ratings for O’Brien continued the daily slide that had taken him from 7.1 on day one, the expected bump for the debut, to the 2.9 on Tuesday.