It may have been David Letterman celebrating a milestone last week, but it was Jay Leno that prevailed in the ratings race.
NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” edged out CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” for the Jan. 30-Feb. 3 frame in adults 18-49 (1.11 million to 1.08 million), giving the Peacock show the advantage for a seventh straight week, according to Nielsen.
Letterman celebrated his 30th year in latenight with Wednesday’s show featuring Howard Stern as guest. On that night, “Tonight Show” topped “Late Show” in both adults 18-49 (1.16 million vs. 1.10 million) and total viewers (3.82m vs. 3.26m).
For the week, the 11:35 p.m. shows on NBC and CBS both closely trailed Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (1.12 million adults 18-49), which was up nicely year to year, and ABC’s “Nightline” (1.14 million), which was down similarly to Leno and Letterman.
Both “Daily” and “Nightline” benefit from airing half-hour episodes that wrap earlier than “Tonight”; as an hour block, the NBC vet beat out Comedy Central’s combo as well as ABC’s (“Nightline”/”Jimmy Kimmel Live”).
It will be interesting to see if a stronger showing by NBC in the 10 o’clock hour on Monday with “Smash” will help Leno open up a bigger lead on Letterman. CBS has been the clear ratings leader at 10:30 on weeknights this season.
NBC also scored in latenight last week with “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” which won the 12:35 a.m. hour in 18-49 over CBS’ competing “Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” for a 10th straight week (769,000 vs. 630,000), with both down about 13% year to year.
“Late Night” was boosted by its three shows from Indianapolis prior to NBC’s Sunday telecast of the Super Bowl. The Wednesday-through-Friday editions averaged a 0.7 rating in adults 18-49, up from an average 0.5 for Monday and Tuesday.
The weekly averages for Fallon (769,000 in 18-49, 1.95 million viewers overall) were his second best of the season.
And on Super Bowl Sunday, “Late Night” set series records (2.5 rating in 18-49, 6.1 million viewers overall) with its special episode (11:56 p.m.-12:56 a.m. ET), which followed local news after “The Voice” in much of the country.