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Late Night Ratings: Conan's Debut Can't Top Leno's Goodbye

Posted at 11:15 a.m. ET

TV Review: The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien

The premiere episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien delivered a 7.1 rating/17 share Monday evening according to metered market household ratings. That would make the program the best performing Monday installment of The Tonight Show in four years.

Still, the ratings were down from Friday night's finale of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which drew an 8.8 rating/20 share in metered markets.

Despite drawing fewer viewers than Leno's farewell, those that did watch were more inclined to stick around for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.Late Night drew a 2.5 rating/9 share, its best Monday ever, topping even its series premiere March 2.

Conan also appeared to reap the benefits of the earlier timeslot. His first night hosting The Tonight Show was up 173% compared to his final night on Late Night, which drew a 2.6/8.

The Tonight Show also handily beat The Late Show with David Letterman (2.8/7), ABC's Nightline (2.7/6) and a rerun of Jimmy Kimmel Live (1.2/4). It will likely take a few weeks for ratings to stabilize, after curious viewers have a chance to check out O'Brien's Tonight Show.

Before the late night shift, Leno was routinely winning the night, with ABC's Nightline taking second place, usually followed very closely by The Late Show with David Letterman. The ABC News program and CBS variety show would often split the demographics, with The Late Show skewing towards a younger audience.