Arriving on the battlefield a week after David Letterman's first volley in the late-night television wars, comic actor Chevy Chase's new talk show on the Fox network narrowly won Tuesday night ratings in sample cities nationally.
But in Baltimore, the Nielsen overnight ratings put the 11 p.m. "Chevy Chase Show" behind two local newscasts in its first half-hour. And at 11:30, it ranked behind "Nightline," "Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Arsenio Hall Show," and just ahead of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
"I think we're pleased with his numbers," said Mike Schroeder, programming chief at local Fox affiliate WBFF (Channel 45). "For a premiere night, you're never sure. We expect it to grow from there."
Direct comparisons were difficult because in most cities "Chevy Chase" begins at 11 p.m., while other networks' late talk shows ** begin a half hour later.
The clearest news was that everybody is beating Mr. Leno.
Fox claimed overall victory by releasing Nielsen figures for "program averages," which measured the performance of each network late-night show in its own time slot.
"The Chevy Chase Show" premiered as the highest-rated late-night network program. More viewers watched it than any other late-night program," said Andy Fessel, the Fox network's senior vice president for research and marketing.
In the 29 cities sampled overnight, "Chevy Chase" drew a 6.9 rating and 16 share. ABC's "Nightline" (11:30 p.m. to midnight) scored a 6.3 rating and 17 share, CBS' "Late Show" (11:35 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., and seen locally on WNUV-Channel 54) earned a 6.2 rating and 19 share, and NBC's "Tonight" (11:35 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.), a 4.1 rating and 12 share.
(The rating measures total viewers while the share estimates the percentage of viewers tuned to a particular show. In the metered markets, one ratings point equals about 476,600 homes; locally, about 16,000 homes.)
In the 11:30 half-hour in which direct national comparison was possible, the shows ranked this way: "Late Show," 7 rating and 19 share; "Chevy Chase," 6.4 rating and 17 share; "Nightline," 6.3 rating and 17 share and "Tonight," 5.4 rating and 14 share.
The premiere of "Chevy Chase" did not come close to winning most viewers in Baltimore.
At 11 p.m., the shows ranked this way: news on WJZ (Channel 13), with a 13.2 rating and 24 share; news on WBAL (Channel 11), 10.3 rating and 19 share; "Chevy Chase," 7.5 rating and 14 share; news on WMAR, Channel 2, 5.9 rating and 11 share; and "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol," on WNUV (Channel 54), 3.8 rating and 7 share.
And at 11:30: "Nightline" on WJZ, 9.9 rating and 25 share; "Late Show" on WNUV, 6.4 rating and 16 share; "Arsenio Hall" on WBAL, 7 rating and 17 share, "Chevy Chase" on WBFF, 4.6 rating and 12 share; and "Tonight" on WMAR, 4.4 rating and 11 share.
"I don't think we expect him to beat the news at this point," Mr. Schroeder said.
"We think our advantage is still the early start. We give people an early/late night block: Watch our news at 10 and Chevy at 11 and get to bed a little earlier."
Network official Mr. Fessel also cited the early start for "Chevy Chase," contending the show "has successfully drawn viewers from prime time into late-night entertainment on Fox.
"Viewers can now satisfy their desire for comedy, entertainment and guest interviews at an earlier hour," he said.