Ratings for "The Jay Leno Show" Fall to Earth, But That's OK

Last Updated Sep 24, 2009 11:28 AM EDT

Not that any of us should be falling out of our chairs, but now that "The Jay Leno Show" is in its second week, ratings are beginning to resemble more what they will look like going forward. This is partly because the early "sampling" of the show is dying down, and perhaps more importantly, this week "Leno" finally had to go up against its real competition for the months to come: first-run episodes of scripted series.

So, here's what happened last night: "Leno" came in third among the three broadcast network shows at 10 p.m. (remember, there is no 10 p.m. slot on Fox or CW), with a 4.6 rating/8 share. The time-slot winner was our corporate overlord, CBS, which aired the season premiere of "CSI:NY." Its audience was double with a 9.4 rating/16 share. The premiere of ABC's "Eastwick" scored a 5.6/10. ("Leno" came in a more distant third on Tuesday night, going up against CBS' "CSI:Miami" and ABC's "Castle.") Bad news? If you've been watching how the economics of this show are supposed to map out, you'll know that the folks at NBC are probably not wringing their hands. This is how it's supposed to be -- though I'm already seeing a troubling tendency by some of those who write about ratings every day to make apples-to-apples comparisons of "Leno" to its competition, when that's really not appropriate. If you take this show up against "Eastwick", "Eastwick" had about 20 percent more audience, but its production costs, as a scripted show, may be around three times higher on an annual basis. In another, similar comparison, according to Mediaweek, "Leno" came in about the same as the ratings last year at this time, in the same time slot, for NBC's "Lipstick Jungle," another scripted series with high production costs. Measured against the network's own, admittedly low, standard, "Leno" is doing just fine, thank you.

Though the show's equilibrium isn't quite there yet -- there's still got to be sampling going on -- I wouldn't call this performance bad at all. "Leno" was never meant to really go head-to-head in ratings against the scripted fare in the 10 p.m. slot. Looks to me that so far it's holding its own.

Previous coverage of "The Jay Leno Show" at BNET Media: