For the first time, original episodes of "The Colbert Report" beat "The Tonight Show" and other broadcast late-night shows for a full quarter in the key demographic — but that doesn't make Colbert a clear-cut winner yet over outgoing host Jay Leno.
In the first three months of the year, Comedy Central's "Colbert" and "The Daily Show" both topped NBC's Leno, CBS's "The Late Show With David Letterman" and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in the 18-49 demographic under Comedy Central's preferred measurement system, which excludes repeats. ("The Daily Show" scored its first winning quarter over "Tonight" a year ago.)
But when repeats are factored in — the traditional system used by networks — Stewart is on top, followed by Leno and Colbert.
And Leno, Letterman and Kimmel all beat the Comedy Central shows in total viewers. Leno handily leads all with 3.5 million total viewers including repeats and 3.6 million for just originals.
Excluding repeats, "The Daily Show” averaged 2.5 million total viewers and a 1.4 million viewers in the demo. The show has the advantage of airing half an hour earlier than Leno and the other broadcast hosts.
“The Colbert Report,” meanwhile, averaged 1.9 million total viewers and 1.1 million adults 18-49. It airs opposite the broadcasters in the second half of the 11 o'clock hour.
Colbert narrowly beat Leno, who averaged 1.04 million viewers 18-49, more than either of his 11:35 p.m. rivals, in original episodes.
But factor in repeats, and the picture changes.
In that case, Stewart — airing earlier than the others — had 1.24 million 18-49 viewers, followed by Leno with 1.018 and and Colbert with 979,000. Kimmel had 929,000 and Letterman 871,000.