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Letterman retirement gives CBS chance to draw younger viewers to late night

Published on Apr 6, 2014 10:36 AM
Letterman's announcement on Thursday during the taping of Late Show With David Letterman in New York that he plans to retire sometime in 2015, when his contract expires, represents the latest upheaval in a changing of the US television's late-night guard. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - David Letterman's surprise retirement announcement gives CBS a much-needed chance to lure younger viewers to his late-night television time slot, matching the recent elevation of Jimmy Fallon that re-energised rival NBC's Tonight Show franchise, according to media executives.

Since the 39-year old Fallon succeeded Jay Leno as star of The Tonight Show, NBC's ratings for the 11.35pm hour have jumped both in overall audience numbers and among the key demographic of viewers aged 18 to 49 that advertisers most desire.

The surge comes as a larger number of young viewers are tuning in to Fallon, a veteran of Saturday Night Live, as he masquerades in elaborate skits as rock stars and politicians, or plays Egg Russian Roulette with celebrity guests willing to risk having raw eggs smashed over their heads on national television.

In the most recent Nielsen ratings, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon averaged 5.2 million viewers, up 41 per cent from Leno's numbers before his February departure from NBC.

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