Letterman Rises in the Ratings
Sarah Palin was hardly David Letterman’s best friend the past couple of weeks, though she did accept his apology Tuesday for what she had labeled a tasteless joke about her daughter and which Mr. Letterman described as “beyond flawed.” But the Alaska governor has surely done the CBS late-night star some big favors in the ratings.
Monday night, when Mr. Letterman offered his extended apology to Governor Palin and her family, he had his best night yet in the continuing late-night competition against NBC’s new “Tonight” show star, Conan O’Brien. In preliminary national ratings, Mr. Letterman pulled in 700,000 more viewers than Mr. O’Brien Monday night, 3.9 million to 3.2 million, his biggest margin yet over his new competitor. Mr. Letterman routinely trailed the former “Tonight” host Jay Leno by a million viewers or more.
But as he has since his start on June 1, Mr. O’Brien was dominant among the younger viewers most television networks prefer — because most advertisers do — winning by margins exceeding 100 per cent in categories like viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.
Mr. O’Brien’s lead in the most-watched category, adults 18 to 49, shrank a bit to 30 percent (it had been as much as 60 percent) and Mr. Letterman was most competitive in the category of adults 25 to 54, where he trailed Mr. O’Brien by just one-tenth of a ratings point.
But the debate surrounding his comments about Governor Palin, which received widespread news coverage Monday evening leading up to the telecast, seemed to create extra interest in Mr. Letterman’s show Monday night. A protest against Mr. Letterman by supporters of Governor Palin attracted a modest crowd outside Mr. Letterman’s theater on Broadway Tuesday afternoon.