Conan's first week on cable is in the record books, but how will he fare in the weeks to come?
NEW YORK -- Conan O'Brien has finished his first week in the U.S. on TBS with a hefty sampling by a remarkably younger-skewing audience.
South of the border, Thursday's show drew 2 million viewers, less than half the number who gathered for his much-awaited, much-promoted debut on Monday, according to the Nielsen Co.
But of those 2 million viewers, nearly 1.4 million were in the 18-to-49 age group that many advertisers want to reach. All this week, cable network TBS has crowed about the median age for "Conan" viewers -- about 30 years old. By contrast, the median audiences for late-night talk shows on the broadcast networks crack the 50-year-old mark, or push past it.
For "Conan" the big question becomes: How many more viewers will fall away as his new show's core audience reveals itself?
The answer could be coming as soon as next week.
"I never take the first week seriously," industry analyst Shari Anne Brill said Friday. "I think Week Two is the indicator. That's when you start looking at who the audience is."
"I think by then, Conan will be close to where he's going to end up," media analyst Steve Sternberg agreed. "And if he maintains an audience of 1 million 18-to-49-year-olds, I think TBS will be happy with him."
After eight months on the sidelines after his brief stint hosting "The Tonight Show," and his bitter exit from NBC last January, O'Brien returned to late night amid much media attention as viewers flocked to welcome him back.
"He was almost like a folk hero," said Brill. "A lot of people were tuning in for curiosity's sake."
Looking rested, ready and typically self-skewering, O'Brien greeted guests, who included "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm; Julie Bowen of "Modern Family"; and the clearly-game-for-anything Tom Hanks, who, while chatting with O'Brien on Tuesday's show, was drenched by a diving whale (you had to be there).
On Wednesday's "Conan," the host shared with viewers a list of rejected titles for his new show. Among them were "Plan B With Conan O'Brien," "One Hour to Lopez" and "One Night Closer to Death."
"We've been having a great first week here at TBS," he said during Thursday's monologue. "But if this doesn't work out, you can catch me next fall on my new VH1 show, 'Coning for Love."'
It may not come to that.
Audience-wise, "he may stay about where he is now," Sternberg says. "And if he does, he's a hit."