ABC show tops 'Tonight' on a night for first time

ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” delivered its best ratings in six months last week, including a milestone victory over one of its timeslot rivals.

According to Nielsen estimates, last Thursday’s edition of “Kimmel” pulled ahead of NBC’s “Tonight with Jay Leno” in the key adults 18-49 demo (906,000 to 869,000) — the first time that the ABC show has bested the NBC program on any night during the traditional September-May TV season.

Kimmel certainly had a good lead-in, as the 11:30 p.m.-midnight “Nightline” led latenight for the week in both demos and total viewers, funneling 1.43 million adults 18-49 into Kimmel.

“JKL” could also be benefiting from ABC’s stronger 10 p.m. showing with entertainment series this season. NBC, meanwhile, has been struggling in the hour with shows like “Awake,” with the latter drawing just a little over 1 million adults 18-49 on the night Leno lagged Kimmel.

For the week, “Tonight Show” remained the top-rated broadcast latenight entertainment program (1.03 million adults 18-49), followed by “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS (912,000) and “Kimmel Live” (715,000). In total viewers, “Tonight Show” drew 3.44 million to about 3 million for “Late Show” and 1.94 million for “Kimmel.”

In both adults 18-49 and total viewers, these were the best scores for Kimmel since Thanksgiving week.

Season to date, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is up 3% in total viewers — the only latenight broadcast talkshow to grow its audience — and is on track to generate its most-watched season in five years.

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