For the first time 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart' has bested Leno's 'Tonight Show' in a key segment of viewers. However, NBC execs, ever stubborn when it comes to defending Leno, aren't taking the news lying down.
According to EW.com, while Leno's 'Tonight Show' viewership still tops the ratings in overall viewers, as it has for years, Comedy Central is celebrating the fact that during the most recent quarter, Stewart drew a few thousand more people than Leno in the crucial "Adults 18-49" demographic.
For 2011's second quarter, Comedy Central is claiming Stewart's show drew 1.295 million (compared to a 'Tonight Show' total of 1.292 million) in the advertiser-friendly demo of viewers between age 18-49.
But NBC spokesman Tom Bierbaum is calling foul, and says only new episodes were counted, strategically omitting the ratings on rerun episodes; by NBC's calculations, 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno' wins the category when every episode (new and rerun) is measured.
Still, nobody can argue that a snarky, low-budget cable series is undoubtedly giving the most iconic late-night show in history a run for its money. Leno may consider his viewers loyal -- remember, there were plenty who cheered his return to late-night, while Team Coco mourned -- but Stewart's substantial fan base is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
The two hosts have made no comment on the latest ratings, but we think Stewart must be greeting the news with satisfaction. After all, he doesn't seem to be what you'd call Leno fan.