Conan O’Brien returns to late night television this evening when his new show premieres on TBS. Will Conan return with a thumping of his rivals or a thud? Will Conan on cable be able to rival David Letterman or Jay Leno on broadcast TV?

Looking at popular search terms on Google, there are two tales to tell. At first glance it looks like searches for Conan O’Brien are eclipsed by the aforementioned Letterman and Leno. Both index extremely high against the returning O’Brien.

Who is more popular? Is it Jay Leno, David Letterman or Conan O'Brien

Who is more popular? Is it Jay Leno, David Letterman or Conan O'Brien

But upon further investigation it may be that Conan does indeed rule the Internet. Searches for “Conan” shows that he indexes the same as “Letterman”, thanks to the Joaquin show in September, and that both nearly double the search volume for “Leno”. Can he carry that success back to late night television?

Who is more popular; Leno, Letterman or Conan?

Who is more popular; Leno, Letterman or Conan?

It will be interesting to see the Nielsen numbers in the coming days. Especially since the October numbers told a very new story. According to Nielsen, “The Daily Show” averaged 1.3 million viewers in the 18-49 demo in October, with 1.2 million each for Leno and Letterman.

That is quite the news considering late night ratings have traditionally been a battle between Leno and Letterman. And it is interesting that Stewart and Conan index so well with the younger crowd. It may signal the shift of power in late night television as well as indicate what the Internet means to these shows and their respective hosts.

Maybe Conan’s late night rival with be Stewart instead of Letterman and Leno. Perhaps Conan O’Brien be able to find his niche and compete with all three. I do hope his show turns out to be just as good as his stint on “The Tonight Show” and previously on “Late Night”. He deserves the success and his followers, Team Coco, will be there to cheer him on.