David Letterman drew his largest audience since December 2005 in his final show as the reigning late-night host on CBS.
The "Late Show with David Letterman" produced a preliminary rating of 9.3 among local stations, outdrawing even prime-time telecasts on Wednesday, the network said in an e- mailed statement.
Each rating point equals 1 percent of the 116.4 million U.S. TV households. Mr. Letterman's guests on Dec. 1, 2005 were Oprah Winfrey and Bonnie Raitt, when the show garnered a rating of 10.1. CBS will report updated ratings later Thursday.
The initial rating rating topped the audience that Jay Leno attracted when he left "The Tonight Show" on NBC last year, yet also shows how much viewing has fragmented since Johnny Carson ruled late-night TV.
Mr. Carson bowed out in 1992 to an audience of 41.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen data supplied by Horizon Media. Leno, who drew a 9.02 rating in his final telecast, attracted an audience of 10.4 million.
Mr. Letterman used his last show to revisit some of the best features of his 33-year run as a late-night host. His final Top 10 was presented by stars ranging from Tina Fey to Julia Louis- Dreyfus from "Seinfeld," who quipped, "Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale."
Bill Murray closed out the roster, saying, "Dave, I'll never have the money I owe you."
Mr. Letterman also used the episode to poke fun at himself, saying physicist Stephen Hawking had calculated that all of his jokes added up to "about eight minutes of laugher."
~ Bloomberg News ~