In the midst of what may be the tightest race in years in the broadcast late-night time period, the unlikely winner continues to be ABC's "Nightline" -- now the strongest among key younger viewers.
ABC says for the first time in any quarter, "Nightline" is the No. 1 show in the 18-49 category. In addition, the show is the best in total viewers and adults 25-54, where it has claimed top-dog status for some time.
Still, the race for late-night supremacy is as close as it had ever been. That is partly due to the upheaval at NBC over a year ago, when Jay Leno returned to host "The Tonight Show" after Conan O'Brien's ouster.
ABC's "Nightline" beat out NBC's "Tonight Show" by some 10,000 18-49 viewers during the first quarter: 1.27 million to 1.26 million. CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" was at 1.15 million. To give a better example of how close the race is among the big three broadcast late-night shows, "Nightline" and the "Tonight Show" were statistically in a dead heat when looking at traditional measures, both at a 1.0 rating; "Late Show" scored a 0.9 rating among 18-49 viewers.
Total viewers also put "Nightline" ahead by 100,000 viewers over "The Tonight Show," at 3.98 million versus 3.88 million; "Late Show" was at 3.59 million. For older viewers, it's another tight race. ABC had 50,000 more 25-54 viewers, for a 1.65 million average (a 1.3 rating); "Tonight" was at 1.60 million (a 1.3 rating); and "Late Show" was at 1.550 million (a 1.2 rating).
ABC says "Nightline," for the first time since 1993, is No. 1 at this time of the season among both 25-54 and total viewers. The show is up by 3% in total viewers and 3% in adults 25-54 compared to the same point last year.