Letterman’s finale episode draws more than 13 million viewers, largest since 1994
The final Late Show With David Letterman on CBS Wednesday night sent tons of viewers through the entrances – and scored its highest ratings in over 20 years.
According to Nielsen, Letterman wrapped up his 33-year career (or 6,028 shows) and drew 13.76 million viewers and a 3.1 rating in adults 18-49 – the largest viewership since February 25, 1994, when it had a huge Olympic-sized lead-in. Letterman outdrew every prime-time program Wednesday night, including the first game of the NBA East Finals between Cleveland and Atlanta (2.8 in adults 18-49.)
In the nation’s overnight markets, the retiring Letterman scored its highest ratings in over a decade, earning a 9.3 household rating and 21 share (live-plus-same day) – the biggest numbers since 2005, with an episode of Late Show featured Oprah Winfrey (making her first appearance on a show hosted by Letterman since 1989.)
Letterman’s sendoff was a huge hit in Chicago – a market he traditionally didn’t do well in. WBBM-TV earned a whopping 12.2 rating and 27 share – perhaps the highest rating Letterman earned in this market since his CBS premiere. New York’s WCBS did a 11.8/29, while KCBS in Los Angeles earned a 6.4/12. Letterman won his time slot in all top three markets.
Letterman also scored well in Milwaukee, drawing a 11.1 rating for CBS affiliate WDJT. In February 2014, Letterman averaged only a 2.0 rating according to Milwaukee media blogger Duane Dudek.
In Denver, Letterman drew over 250,000 viewers for KCNC-TV, according to the Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow.
In Letterman’s hometown of Indianapolis, where WTTV became a CBS affiliate just this year, his goodbye registered a 12.2, the same number in drew in Chicago.
The final episode of Letterman program featured numerous cameo appearances and numerous clips – even a few from his 1980 NBC daytime show, which lasted only a few months.
Letterman’s final Top Ten featured celebrities reading the list, with former Seinfeld co-star Julia-Louis Dreyfus perhaps with the biggest laugh at all when she read number four:“Thank you for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”
The look of Jerry Seinfeld’s face (who read number seven) was priceless.
Another enjoyable moment from the show was the Taco Bell skit from 1996 where Letterman took orders at a drive-thru.
A behind-the-scenes clip later aired, leading into Letterman thanking his fans, friends, and family, signing off and handing it over to Foo Fighters to close out the show. During this segment, more than 500 clips were put together with the Fighters’ music serving as a backdrop.
On Thursday, workers at the Ed Sullivan Theater started dismantling the set. Beginning in September, Stephen Colbert moves in. In the meantime? CBS is stripping reruns of recently concluded drama The Mentalist in the time slot now vacated by Letterman. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, CBS regularly ran reruns of crime dramas and movies on its late-night schedule, opposite Johnny Carson.