A New Skirmish in the Late-Night Wars: Craig's Bogus Numbers

Ferguson's doing great in the ratings. So why send an e-mail touting a win that wasn't?

CBS's "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" has been doing well in the ratings — but not quite as well as one overenthusiastic booker for the show would have potential guests believe.

Last week, an executive at JB Talent — an outside company retained by "Late Late Show" production company Worldwide Pants — blasted an e-mail to showbiz publicists in LA and New York declaring that, for the week ending February 5, Ferguson had "posted another victory versus ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,’ easily outrating the ABC show for the week and winning – yet again – in every major demographic group."

The email even included numbers supposedly backing up its claim: Ferguson averaged around 790,000 adults 18-49 to Kimmel's 700,000, the Ferguson booker said.

Just one problem: It wasn't true.

Kimmel's ABC show actually averaged 806,000 viewers in the key sales demo — roughly 15,000 more than Ferguson. Kimmel also beat Fergie in women 18-49 and women 25-54 (the second consecutive week that had happened).

So much for "every major demographic group."

It's standard practice for bookers and others associated with late-night shows to barrage PR types with data touting the awesomeness of their respective shows. The goal, of course, is to convince reps that their clients should appear on Craig/Jimmy/The Other Jimmy first.

No wonder, then, that folks sympathetic to the Kimmel cause were less than thrilled when they found out about the Ferguson booker's e-mail.

“If Conan had been this brazen about fabricating numbers, maybe he'd still be on the air," one insider close to the situation told TheWrap.

Shazam!

So just why did Team Craiggers send out the bogus ratings? Particularly when Ferguson — who's lately become an online riot as he publicly discovers the joys of Twitter — had plenty of real wins to brag about for the week (total viewers, 18-34, 25-54) without inventing one?

Human error, a publicity rep for Ferguson's Robot Skeleton Army said.

"Weekly and season – to – date numbers were inadvertently compared in that email," the CBS staffer e-mailed. "The error has been caught and a revised email with the correct numbers has been resent."

Indeed, three hours after TheWrap contacted CBS about the original e-mail Friday, an "updated" ratings missive was sent to publicists noting the mistake. No surprise, however, that the new e-mail didn't mention that Kimmel had actually beat Ferguson in the demo (though it did have the correct numbers).

C'est la guerre.