On the nation’s television screens, David Letterman and Jay Leno are in a virtual dead heat in the ratings war for viewers - though behind Ted Koppel and “Nightline.” But in the virtual world of computer screens, the competition is one-sided.
Letterman, assisted in part by his Top Ten lists, is an icon of the Internet. Leno, in the words of latenight watcher Aaron Barnhart, “is not real compatible with Internet users.”
Letterman solidified his cyber-hold on the computer set this year with the creation of the extensive CBS Eye on the Net, a World Wide Web site that offers informational and interactive features themed to the network’s entertainment, news and sports programming; updated news text, video and audio downloads; and a viewers’ forum.
The Eye’s “Late Show” section gets hundreds of thousands of visitors each week. While there, on-line fans may peruse the archive of Top Ten lists, guest and cast information, photos and Letterman’s best lines of the week.
But the home office is not the only place to find out about this year’s Oscars host and recent visitor to England. Letterman also is the topic of his share of the world’s 4 million Web pages.
Although the networks make nothing from the unofficial sites (Eye on the Net includes interactive sponsors), each late-night show stands to increase its nightly audience of 4.8 million households by having an on-line presence.
Compared with CBS’s entry, NBC’s “Tonight Show” Web page generates less than half of the number of visitors seeking video clips, funny newspaper headlines and backstage looks at the show.