Two weeks into non-Jay Leno programming, NBC's audience for the final hour of prime-time TV has increased by 45 percent.
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While NBC doesn't necessarily have any hits in that hour, the instant response by viewers indicates they are more comfortable with the traditional mix of drama, news and reality rather than a late-night show moved into prime time.
The failed experiment of Conan O'Brien taking over the "Tonight" show and Leno moving into prime time ended just before the Olympics. Leno was averaging 5.15 million viewers in his new slot, the Nielsen Co. said. Through two weeks of other programming, the network is averaging 7.44 million at 10 p.m. Eastern, 9 p.m. Central. Local affiliates expressed anger that Leno's low ratings hurt their late local news.
NBC moved Leno back to the "Tonight" show. O'Brien quit instead of taking NBC's offer to move his start time back by a half-hour.
NBC's most-watched program of the week, "Law & Order: SVU," was in the 10 p.m. time slot Wednesday and was seen by 8.5 million people. Two lighter shows, "Parenthood" and "The Marriage Ref," had more than six million viewers each. A two-hour "Dateline NBC" Friday had 7.6 million, Nielsen said.
Only the warhorse "Law & Order," with 5.21 million viewers Monday, was in the neighborhood of Leno numbers.
To give some perspective, CBS last week had 17 prime-time programs that were watched by more people than anything on NBC.