Writers strike still impacting late night ratings


Carat Programming’s Broadcast and Video Beat reports ratings for the late night talk shows continue to be depressed since the writers strike began 11/5. “As we first reported four weeks ago, NBC is feeling the pain in particular with its flagship The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tumbling by 40% in the key Adult 18-49 demographic versus a year ago. As The Tonight Show goes, so goes the rest of the NBC lineup –Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Carson Daly (whose Last Call went back into first run telecasts recently) are down similar enormous percentages.”

Some are blaming NBC’s mid November decision to run very old episodes of the Leno show (some as old as 14 years) as part of the reason for the drop, but Tonight’s ratings tanked the first two weeks of the strike with, er, fresh reruns and have never recovered.

Over at CBS, Late Show with David Letterman is down significantly but not as much as Leno, if for no other reason than Dave has less far to fall, and fewer people watched his original telecasts in the first place. Letterman’s companion show Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson is also down in ratings, but at a lesser clip than Dave.

Curiously, ABC’s Nightline is not getting much traction despite remaining in first run (its writers are not affected by the strike). Although it got a slight bump in household ratings, it is down on Adults 18-49 and flat in the keys news demographic of Adults 24-54. Still, Nightline’s relative stability as lead in to Jimmy Kimmel Live is probably helping that program shed fewer viewers.

On the weekend, Saturday Night Live reruns are down significantly considering we’re comparing it to a year ago period that already contained two reruns out of four telecasts. Fox’s Mad TV and Spike Feresten have also lost viewers but are weathering the strike better than NBC.

Now six weeks in, rumors are heating up that one of the major talk show hosts is going to go back into production, perhaps breaking the strike logjam and allowing other hosts to follow suit despite the continuing job action. During the 1988 strike, it took Johnny Carson nine weeks to return to first run shows (sans writers at first). David Letterman, who followed Carson in the lineup back then, returned seven weeks after that.