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Conan Ratings Fall Back to Earth on Second Night... but It's All Good

Even though following the saga of Conan O'Brien is one of my favorite hobbies, I thought it prudent to wait at least a day before reporting on how his new TBS show was performing. First night ratings say virtually nothing about how a show will perform over the long haul. Second-night ratings say more.

Even though all of the ratings data isn't yet in for night two, this much can be said: Conan probably won't routinely accomplish the feat it did on its first night on-air -- beating all of the late-night competition, broadcast or cable -- although it could be the ratings leader in the 18-49 demographic.

According to preliminary household ratings, the show's viewership dropped by 25 percent last night -- it had a 2.1 rating, putting it back in familiar territory, behind broadcast but at a high rating for cable. The preliminary household ratings for the broadcast's late night programming was yesterday was: ABC's Nightline, 3.2; CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, 3.0; Tonight Show with Jay Leno, 2.5.

However, in 18-49 ratings just released by TBS, the show's ratings in 18-49 were a 1.6. Yes, that's down more than a third from the 2.5 it got on its first night, but still considered solid. The ratings, posted on TV By the Numbers, don't include another key statistic, which is how The Daily Show and The Colbert Report did last night. But since ratings are aided by bookings, that's a factor to consider as well. Conan featured Tom Hanks and Soundgarden, but The Daily Show countered with Harrison Ford, while Colbert countered with hot singer Cee-Lo Green, who changed the core lyric of his song, "F*** You", to "Fox News".

On broadcast, Letterman didn't exactly sit back and watch, featuring Denzel Washington -- and a double-dose of performances from Bon Jovi. However, Leno didn't really show up, unless you count American Idol winner Lee DeWyze.

Are these ratings drops for Conan anything to get hot and bothered about? No -- first night sampling being the ratings boost it always is. The other reason is that 18-49 is all TBS, and advertisers, seem to care about. So if Conan performs in those demos -- and by the estimate of The New York Times' Bill Carter, an 0.5 rating would do just fine -- the rest is just a rivalry that's fun to write about.