Conan O’Brien, who left NBC’s “The Tonight Show” in January, attracted 4.16 million viewers in his return to late-night television on TBS, beating Jay Leno on NBC and David Letterman on CBS.
“That’s a strong number,” Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at the advertising company Horizon Media, said in an e-mail.
“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” was seen by 3.47 million viewers and “Late Show with David Letterman” attracted 3.39 million, Atlanta-based TBS said today in an e-mailed statement, citing preliminary Nielsen Co. data.
O’Brien is returning at a time when late-night TV leadership may be up for grabs. Last month, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” led in the advertiser-sought 18-to-49 age group, a first for a cable show. The time period has historically been dominated by “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “The Late Show With David Letterman.”
O’Brien opened with a monologue that included references to his exit from NBC. “People asked why I named the show ‘Conan,’” O’Brien said. “It’s so I’d be harder to replace.”