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TV | Inside TV

Jon Stewart vs. Jay Leno: Networks spar over who's No. 1

Is there or isn’t there a new King of Late Night? Comedy Central is claiming victory after The Daily Show with Jon Stewart edged Jay Leno’s Tonight Show in the crucial Adult 18-49 demographic for the second quarter that ended June 26. Though The Tonight Show still draws the most overall viewers every night, 3.9 million, compared to The Daily Show’s 2.2 million, Stewart’s show edged Leno, 1.295 million to 1.292 million, in the younger more advertiser-friendly demo.

But not so fast, says NBC. Spokesperson Tom Bierbaum says that Comedy Central strategically counted the ratings only for new episodes, while neglecting the ratings for reruns. According to their tabulations, The Tonight Show comes out on top when every episode is counted, 1.283 million to 1.167 million. Moreover, NBC makes the point that the first half-hour of The Tonight Show draws 1.37 million, which they contend is a fairer apple-to-apples comparison with the half-hour Daily Show. In an e-mail, Comedy Central spokesman Steve Albani said, “Broadcast traditionally has always included original plays and encores but like a lot of things they do, we believe that to be an archaic way of measuring performance. To each their own.”

While Leno and Stewart’s camps can argue over the details, ABC can confidently say that the debate is nothing more than fighting over second place. Nightline topped all the late-night shows in overall viewers (4.1 million) and Adults 18-49 (1.297 million). Click below for the top talkshows, with both Comedy Central and NBC contributing conflicting rankings:

Top 10 Late-night Talkshows (Adult 18-49), according to Comedy Central

1. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1.295 million avg viewers)
2. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1.292)
3. The Late Show with David Letterman (1.096)
4. The Colbert Report (.960)
5. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (.842)
6. Jimmy Kimmel Live (.766)
7. Conan (.748)
8. Chelsea Lately (.720)
9. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (.702)
10. Lopez Tonight (.340)

Top 6 Late-night Shows from 11:30-12:00 (Adult 18-49), according to NBC

1. The 
Tonight Show (1.370 million avg viewers)
2. Nightline (1.255)
3. The Late Show (1.112)
4. The Daily Show (.884) (overrun into 11:30 half-hour)
5. The Colbert Report (.868)
6. Conan (.614 million)

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