Thursday's Joan Rivers-Johnny Carson late-night all-star heavyweight bout ended in a split decision in Los Angeles and a TKO for Rivers' new show in New York.
But in 12-city overnight ratings, the premiere of "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers" fell short of toppling the venerable late-night champion, "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson."
Carson took the 12 large cities with an 8.7 rating and a 25% share of the audience versus Rivers' 7.9 rating and 19% share, according to A.C. Nielsen Co. ratings. National ratings, where Carson could be expected to increase his lead, were unavailable Friday.
(A rating point equals 874,000 homes--1% of the nation's homes with television sets. Local ratings are percentages of homes in their respective markets.)
The well-fought match saw the champ appear only to hold his own in his hometown while stumbling in New York, the all-important No. 1 television market in the country.
Nielsen and rival ratings firm Arbitron disagreed on the contest in Los Angeles, according to the research department of Los Angeles-based Fox Television. Nielsen gave the decision to Carson--with a 10.4 rating and a 36% share to Rivers' 9.4 rating and 25% share.
Arbritron, however, gave the Los Angeles nod to Rivers--with a 9.4 rating and 29% share to Carson's 7 rating and 28% share.
Rivers appeared on KTTV Channel 11, where research director Jane Collins said Friday that the new program "more than tripled what we normally do in the time period."
Carson's show, she said, "always does better in Nielsen" ratings than in Arbitron's, and there is frequently a discrepancy between the two ratings services.
"I've seen six, seven, even eight ratings points difference," Collins said.
The ratings services agreed on New York, however. Rivers took the fight in a walkaway.
According to Nielsen, Rivers had a 12.8 rating and a 26% audience share to Carson's 9.1 rating and 25% share. In Arbitron's count, Rivers earned an 8.3 rating and 19% share while Carson had a 6.1 rating and a 19% share.
Overall late-night TV viewing appeared to be up significantly as a result of the much-publicized Rivers-Carson contest.