Stephen Colbert returned to TV on Tuesday (and part of Wednesday), filling CBS’ months-long late-night hole last occupied by David Letterman in May.
Colbert peppered his first hour with cracks about his new network’s choice of summer programming in his slot, Mentalistrepeats, but that’s a ratings bar he easily passed on his first night. Colbert won all of late-night in his first, slightly-oversized episode, averaging a robust 6.55 million viewers. That’s more than double Jimmy Fallon’s 2.92 million viewers for Tuesday’s Tonight — and tripleJimmy Kimmel’s 1.75 million.
In the key demographic of adults 18-49, Colbert was also a victor. The premiere averaged a 1.4 rating with the younger set, compared to Fallon’s 0.9 adults and Kimmel’s 0.4 adults.
Preliminary stats brought Colbert a strong 4.9 rating among metered market households. Compared to the same night last year, Late Show spiked a massive 172 percent. And, compared the show’s most recent premiere, it jumped 123 percent. As for the exact competition breakdown, Tonight averaged a 2.4 rating — and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! earned a 1.4 rating
Interest in Colbert is clearly high. The show raked in that number all on its own merits, without any kind of lead-in. ‘s 2010 return to Tonight was the punctuation mark on months of public speculation about the host returning to cut ‘s NBC tenure short — and Fallon, who made a friendly appearance in Colbert’s first episode, got an enviable lead-in from the Olympics during his first week. (The premiere drew an impressive 7.1 overnight rating and 11.3 million viewers.)
As for the last original , finales are also hard to compete with. Early figures for Letterman’s May swan song gave the host a 9.3 rating among metered market households — a stat that later translated into a two-decade high 13.76 million viewers.
Colbert’s good debut also translated to a win for . , finally partnered with his permanent neighbor, got a slightly late start but nabbed a 1.3 rating. That edged out NBC and ‘ 1.1 rating with metered markets.