But ABC's 'Nightline,' 'Kimmel' gain ground

While ABC’s combo of “Nightline” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” made gains, NBC’s “Tonight Show” remained the ratings leader in the first hour following late local newscasts, according to May sweep numbers issued Friday by Nielsen.

For the April 28-May 25 sweep period, “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” averaged 1.32 million adults 18-49 from 11:35 p.m. to 12:35 a.m., followed by CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” (1.13 million) and ABC’s combo of “Nightline” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (1.09 million). Same order held true in total viewers, with “Tonight” netting 3.95 million, “Late Show” drawing 3.49 million and the ABC pair coming it at 3.26 million.

Among all individual shows airing 11 p.m. or later, ABC’s 25-minute “Nightline” was top dog (1.36 million), with NBC’s “Tonight” close behind (1.32 million), followed by Comedy Central’s “Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (1.21 million) and “Late Show” on CBS (1.13 million). Also of note, Daily Show’s “Colbert Report” (11:30 p.m. start) averaged 863,000, ABC’s “Kimmel” (midnight start) averaged 740,000 and TBS’ “Conan” (11 p.m. start) drew 669,000.

NBC notes that head to head from 11:35 p.m. to midnight, its “Tonight Show” won out over ABC’s “Nightline” in 18-49 (1.41 million vs. 1.36 million) and by slim margins in both adults 25-54 (1.79 million vs. 1.76 million) and total viewers (4.41 million vs. 4.40 million).

Trends favor ABC, however, as both “Nightline” and “Kimmel” were up slightly in 18-49 vs. last May while “Tonight Show” and “Late Show” were down by nearly 10%, according to Nielsen. In total viewers, the ABC pair were both up by double-digit percentages (with Kimmel’s 1.89 million repping an all-time May best), NBC’s “Tonight” was down slightly and CBS’ “Late Show” was flat.

At 12:35 a.m., NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” won out in 18-49 over CBS’ “Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” (834,000 vs. 734,000). The shows were neck-and-neck in both 25-54 (about 920,000 each) and total viewers (1.78 million for Fallon vs. 1.75 million for Ferguson), with the NBC show up a bit and the CBS entry down slightly vs. last year.

As previously reported (Daily Variety, June 3), May was a strong month for “Daily Show,” which was on par with Leno in 18-49 as the No. 1 latenight entertainment program for the cable ratings month of May, which covers a different set of dates than the broadcast sweeps period. “Daily Show” has a significant advantage in any such comparisons, however, due to both its earlier start time (11 p.m. vs. 11:35 p.m.) and shorter duration (30 minutes vs. 60 minutes for the NBC program).

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