Late-Night Viewers Look For Late-Night Subject Matter; Letterman Delivers

Adult topical material is the stuff of late-night television.

In that regard, we can't see TV pressure groups protesting that advertisers like Universal Pictures' "Couples Retreat," AT&T U-Verse, or "Only Vegas" take their commercials off "Late Show with David Letterman."

That's just part of the reason TV advertisers probably won't be moving off the  Letterman show. The other is how the host himself handled the explosive issue of blackmail and his own indiscretions. He owned the story, his own story-- not TMZ, "Access Hollywood" or

And then, of course, there was his humor: "It is fall, and I spent my time raking my hate mail... It's chilly outside my house; chilly inside my house";  and "Getting into my car, even the navigation lady wouldn't speak to me."



And then putting himself right among those politicians he regularly jokes up for similar recklessness. "So let's talk about other news: Bill Clinton..."  Then, he reconsiders further discussion. "[Former New York Governor] Eliot Spitzer is..."

Media analysts say scandal can bring TV shows and celebrities down. But it can also lift them higher. Hugh Grant's apology for being caught with a prostitute was a big moment for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in the early '90s. This propelled the program past "Late Show with David Letterman," with better ratings -- a position it held for a decade and a half.

Letterman's caustic humor has always been a draw for viewers. But now he throws in self-mocking. The wild card is what occurs if any illegal activities are uncovered.

"Late Show" was already building strong ratings against "The Tonight Show" with new host Conan O'Brien. Initially, Letterman was getting more overall viewers.

In recent weeks, he has been besting -- or tying -- O'Brien for the key demo of 18-49 viewers. And, now, in the last couple of days, Letterman even tied "The Tonight Show," in one episode, for younger 18-34 viewers.

Detractors might say -- in passing -- that, perhaps Letterman is capitalizing on his actions. But they would be hard-pressed to make a long-term conspiratorial case.

Long term, Letterman is probably smart enough not to devote entire monologues to his current problems. Like most veteran TV comedians, he knows how to master and dose his material to viewers. That's why he got the job in the first place.

Late-night TV advertisers know the score. Unless Letterman's actions are determined criminal -- and/or ratings take a sudden big turn for the worse -- marketers aren't going anywhere.

This has never been family television, and that's the exact tone late-night viewers want.

2 comments about "Late-Night Viewers Look For Late-Night Subject Matter; Letterman Delivers ".
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  1. Dave Robinson from O'Leary and Partners, October 9, 2009 at 1:34 p.m.

    Nicely done, sir.

  2. Marcia Chocinsky from Fahlgren Advertising, October 9, 2009 at 3:32 p.m.

    Right on.

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