Conan….Very Funny

I was one of the 4.2 million Americans who tuned in to see Conan’s big premiere night and no surprise, the guy was stoked to be back. His opening skit, particularly the job-hunting interview with Mad Men‘s Don Draper and Ricky Gervais‘ pre-taped promos, produced laugh out loud moments in my house.

Andy Richter made his presence felt with a few well timed shots and the show moved very quickly.  Conan’s first guest, Arlene Wagner, who opened the Leavenworth Nutrcacker Museum in the state of Washington 15 years ago with her husband, was a great send-up on that whole “coveted spot” deal.   She was followed by a more traditional “sit and chat” with Seth Rogen who was as comfortable, quick, offbeat and funny with Conan as he is in the roles he plays. Interesting sidenote, the whole time Seth was there, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my friend and former business partner Jordan Levin, but I still can’t put my finger on that one. 

By that point though, it seemed to me that though the show itself was settling in to “same old late night television syndrome” and out trotted Lea Michele from Glee. Two minutes later, out trotted me…as I clicked out to catch SportsCenter for news on the BCS standings and the upcoming college basketball season.

I wrote in a prior blog that I felt Conan’s first night would produce a whopper audience for Turner but below the premiere night of Conan’s Tonight Show premiere….Conan drew 4.2 million viewers compared to Tonight’s 6.0 million plus. My friend Jack Wakshlag, Turner research chief and the best in the business, pointed to the youth of Conan’s audience…as the show posted a median age of just 29.6. That’s gold folks. Pure Gold.  Television remains the most effective advertising medium for the dollar and young people are notoriously hard to find on the tube. Advertisers will pay significant premiums to reach and potentially influence younger consumers so Turner’s Steve Koonin and David Levy had to pop some champagne somewhere yesterday.

Inquisitive sort that I am though, I wonder a few things…..

You can get ratings today by the minute, in 15 minute increments, by the half hour and then the hour.  I wonder how many of the 4.2 million viewers were like me….people who stayed for the opening, watched the first half maybe, and then bailed. The tune-in for the opening had to be huge…but who and how many stuck around for the tried and true? And how does the opening act compare to Night #2, #3, #4, #50 and #100? I think we can learn alot here. 

My friend Steve Poppe predicted that college campuses would have phenomenal viewing of Conan’s return. I think he is right. Years ago, when the aforementioned Jack Wakshlag was working with me at The WB, Jack approached Nielsen with a plan to include college campus viewing in the Nielsen rating system. He stuck with it and eventually, Nielsen made the change. How many of the 4.2 million viewers came from campuses? Just curious….

In the end, my hope for Conan is that he remains as happy to be back on the air as he seems today when his ratings scorecard settles in to more normal levels. For Turner, those  guys are wicked smart and have built an incredible business by being aggressive when the time is right. I have little doubt that this high profile investment will be a huge win for Atlanta when smarter folks than I do their historical review.

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