Conan O'Brien--who celebrated the first anniversary of "Conan" earlier this week by officiating a gay marriage on his show--averaged 952,000 total viewers a night during his first year on TBS, according to Nielsen. That's only 41,000 more than George Lopez did in the same timeslot on "Lopez Tonight," the show TBS moved to midnight to make room for "Conan." (In August, TBS canceled "Lopez Tonight.")
O'Brien had significantly more younger viewers than Lopez, drawing 440,000 18-to-34-year-olds compared to 316,000 for "Lopez Tonight." Among 18-to-49-year-olds, "Conan" averaged 680,000 versus 558,000 for Lopez.
The averages for "Conan" are down considerably from the show's premiere, which drew over four million viewers.
But the network (presumably) was able to charge advertisers higher rates for Coco's show. So do the underwhelming numbers for "Conan" even matter for TBS?
"Whatever ad-rate increase they got from marketers has to be offset by the cash TBS ponied up for O'Brien," Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media, told Yahoo News.
TBS is paying O'Brien between $10 million and $15 million a year, according to Business Week.
"The question you have to ask is, 'What was the more financially prudent: Lopez or O'Brien?'" Adgate said. "I would vote for Lopez--but hindsight is 20/20."
He added: "You throw in Frank Caliendo of 'Frank TV' fame in 2007, and TBS' attempts to launch a late-night comedy show have had difficulty getting any traction, regardless of the host."
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