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The raves were instantaneous for David Letterman's Wednesday night show with Paul McCartney, and now comes the very good ratings news: 4.4 million viewers tuned in to see the former Beatle return to the stage where he made his American debut 45 years ago. Only 2.5 million watched Conan O'Brien on NBC.

That continues a roll for a resurgent Letterman, and a troubling downward slide for NBC's Tonight Show since Conan O'Brien took over from Jay Leno. If the executives at NBC responsible for the latenight change weren't sweating before, they should be now after seeing McCartney and Letterman create one of the most exciting TV events of the summer on Wednesday.

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And to make matters worst for NBC, ABC's Nightline has also re-established itself as a mandatory stop on days when there is compelling news.

Last week's ratings offer a neat snapshot of what is now happening in latenight.

Nightline, driven in part by the Michael Jackson memorial and general media madness surrounding the performer's death, drew 3.8 million viewers, while Letterman finished close behind at 3.7 million. The Tonight show drew 2.8 million.

Last year at this time, Jay Leno was dominating latenight an averaging 4.6 million viewers a night.

In fairness, O'Brien is winning with young viewers, buit he is losing far too many of Leno's older, stalwart fans. As sudden as it has been, I think NBC might soon discover  that its journey from first to worst in the latenight  ratings is now permanent.

I have to say, I've received a lot of comments here on previous latenight posts, and there has not been a lot of support for O'Brien or the move by NBC.

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