Conan Ratings Tanking

O'Brien's TV viewership has plunged 60% since show debut

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 18, 2011 2:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – Conan O'Brien is bombing on late-night TV and it's hitting TBS hard in the pocketbook. Viewership of his program has plunged some 60% since its debut last fall. TBS forked out a $12 million annual salary for the funnyman and boasted that Conan was going to be the "building block" of a network revival, reports the Wall Street Journal. But the Time Warner-owned channel isn't throwing in the towel yet, and is instead investing more bucks on program production and lead-in shows to woo viewers. Officials say they're committed to the show at least through next year.

Viewership for the red-headed yukster sank from its debut of 2.4 million last year to 958,000 in July, according to Nielsen figures. He's trailing all major network and cable competitors in his 11pm time slot. He's still ahead of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson on CBS, but both of their programs start later. O'Brien drew some 2.9 million viewers before he left the Tonight Show last year. TBS officials insist advertisers still like Conan because O'Brien's quirky humor appeals to younger viewers. They also say many of Conan viewers watch online, so O'Brien's real base isn't reflected in viewer statistics.

WESTWOOD, CA - JUNE 08:  Television host Conan O'Brien arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Super 8' at Regency Village Theatre on June 8, 2011 in Westwood, California.
WESTWOOD, CA - JUNE 08: Television host Conan O'Brien arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Super 8' at Regency Village Theatre on June 8, 2011 in Westwood, California.   (Getty Images)
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