NBC’s Leno, Fallon Off to Best Ratings Starts in Five Years

Ratings: NBC's Leno, Fallon off to

'Tonight Show' is beating CBS' 'Late Show' by 51% in 18-49 demo this fall; Kimmel boosts ABC

NBC continues to be the most popular latenight choice of Americans, with Jay Leno, who’s set to exit “The Tonight Show” in just a couple of months, and Jimmy Fallon, the man who will replace him, both off to their best ratings starts in five years.

The Peacock latenight hosts have opened up considerable distance on their CBS competition and also had no problem topping ABC’s revamped lineup, which has had “Jimmy Kimmel Live” leading into “Nightline” since January.

Leno saw a boost in his final months the first time he was ready to ankle “Tonight” in 2009, but it must be encouraging for NBC to see his replacement come on so strong this fall. In fact, Fallon is now outdrawing David Letterman’s CBS show in young adults even though the latter starts an hour earlier.

Looking at the numbers for the first eight weeks of the television season (Sept. 23-Nov. 17), “Tonight” is the clear leader in the three-network weeknight battle at 11:35. Its average adults 18-49 audience of 1.11 million — a three-year high — is up 12% from last year at this time and comfortably ahead of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (919,000, up 37% from his year-ago average when it started 25 minutes later); ABC’s lineup is seeing slight overall gains from last year in 18-49, even though “Nightline” remains down sharply in its new, later time.

CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” continues to struggle, with its 18-49 audience (736,000) down 20% from last year. As a result, the “Tonight Show” advantage over “Late Show” has swelled to 51% after standing at just 7% at this time a year ago.

In total viewers, “Tonight Show” is leading with 3.69 million — up 9% from last year and its best start to a season since the fall of 2008 — and is followed by “Late Show” (2.94 million, down 5%) and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (2.60 million, up 36% from last year). Letterman is up 3% from last year in adults 50-plus, underscoring the fact that his audience is aging.

“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” is averaging 1.93 million viewers at 12:35 a.m., up 19% from last year for a five-year high and ahead of ABC’s “Nightline” (1.66 million, down 57% from last year when it aired earlier) and CBS’ “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” (1.47 million, down 4%).

In 18-49, “Fallon” is up 24% (799,000 vs. 646,000), opening up a wider advantage over “Late Late Show” (480,000, down 16%).

Fallon has exhibited broad growth this fall, with gains of 20% or more in most categories and his biggest spike coming among men 35-49 (up 32%). His “Late Night” median age of 52.3 also figures to position him well opposite Kimmel (53.9 median age) and Letterman (59.1) when the three face off starting Feb. 24.

At 1:35 a.m., NBC is also doing well with “Last Call with Carson Daly,” which is up 21% in 18-49 viewers (443,000 vs. 366,000) and up 13% in total viewers (989,000 vs. 874,000).

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  1. Mary C Kuckuck says:

    The reason Jay’s ratings have gone up is because he finally has the guts to tell it like it is instead of bowing down to obama and his cohorts. As for Letterman he’s out-lived his usefulness.

  2. susan singer says:

    Love Jay leno No comparison between him and letterman Never has been I will miss Jay Letterman cant hold a candle

  3. WagTheDog says:

    Fallon and Kimmel are a toss up … I like ’em both. Do love Fallon’s “Thank you notes” bit … very hip and very funny stuff.

  4. Jeff Shaffer says:

    David Letterman is an old man who is trying to do the same stale lines he has said for years. It is his time to start doing the weather again.

  5. NBC will have another ratings coup when, in March they fire fallon and rehire Leno for the tonight show spot. That will be good for another 5 years of ratings while they lead another young late night host to believe that he will take over the tonight show. I suspect that by that time Leno will be in position to take over control of the whole NBC network and rule more than just late night. Can you imagine prime time filled with various forms of Jay Leno shows. 50 actors all playing the part of Jay Leno, all telling the same lame Jay Leno jokes and each one firing the same number of young comics all the while acquiring more and more power for Jay. It is indeed a brave new world. The oneness of Jay is the fulfillment of life.

  6. GJ says:

    Letterman is just dull and not funny at all. He comes across as a boring old man… pissed off, like he doesn’t want to be there. Jay is just having a good time. You feel like Jay invited you into his house and wants you there; you showed up at Letterman’s and he wants you to go away.

  7. CB says:

    Leno is fearless in mocking the Obama Admin, Letterman, Maher, and the rest are ass kissers. People hate ass kissers.

  8. NHBill says:

    Sorry Drudiges late night ratings aren’t so much about politics than the quality of the shows.
    Dave is practically sleepwalking through his show these days while Jay and Jimmy K are showing up for work each and every night.

    Stewart/Colbert not even mentioned in this piece are the real story in the 18-34 Demos with the much lower median age than the broadcast shows.

    Fallon’s story is he’s not making the Conan mistake.
    Fallon is staying with Lorne Michaels in NYC.
    A New York Tonight Show is not good news for Dave.

    What Will happen to Jay?
    As Late Night turns.

  9. Jtom says:

    I don’t think this a a liberal vs conservative thing, but rather refined humor vs coarse humor. There are those, however, who may believe there is a correlation between conservative and refinement, and liberal and coarseness.

  10. I’d like to see Leno make one more stop on cable before he hangs it up. its not like he needs to prove anything, but I like putting the screws to the know-it-all networks.

  11. FLOYD MARTIN says:

    None of them can even come close to Johnny Carson!
    Johnny had skits, Famous actors and guest, He had guest host every Friday or Monday or both!
    If not for Johnny there would be no Jay Leno!
    Johnny was responsible for making many famous comedians and actors!
    How many Guest host has Leno or Jay had? NONE!
    All they care about is themselves!

  12. FLOYD MARTIN says:

    Yep and if Leno goes to Fox, it will go far beyond 51% !

  13. Johnny Carson didn’t pick Letterman for his replacement host as something was revealed under the Lettermans sheep’s clothing that was on the dark side of evil.

  14. atilla thehun says:

    you nailed it

  15. Doc Savage says:

    This seems to me to be a direct slap at the Hollywood hacks and their toady, Letterman. These witless alleged entertainers will be making more and more commercials until the public boycotts the sponsors, too. And then it will be life imitating a science fiction film.

  16. Fin Edelberg says:

    lettermen sux, so what’s new bout that??

  17. Jeff says:

    Is letterman still using his position to bang half his staff?

  18. Remember, if you like your late night host, you can keep him, period! Ooops! somebody forgot to tell NBC.

  19. Kaya Hund says:

    Who is David Letterman?

  20. Dianewe says:

    Kiss the Ring! This is what it brings! Letterman is a old old unfunny immoral beast.

  21. codezoo says:

    So Leno and Fallon beat that crotchety old fart? How about that. Maybe Leno can take the Letterman gig after Fallon takes over and we can see a real ratings competition!

  22. Suzanne says:

    Haven’t tuned in to Letterman since his degrading comments about Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol.

  23. NY Keith says:

    Since we don’t have jobs we can stay up late and watch. Yes We Can!

  24. Rob says:

    Gee and they fired Leno lol lol

  25. I miss the Dave of the 80s and 90s. He was great then…now not so much.

  26. Jay says:

    Letterman began watering down his comedy in order to serve his political loyalty a long time ago. He couldn’t get back to being potent and funny across any range of topics on any day if he tried. If he tries, I will be among the many millions of people who won’t notice or care.

  27. I won’t watch the late show , once Jay Leno is gone . He has been my favorite since the Carson show . Jimmy Fallon will never fill that void for me .

  28. Ray says:

    When Leno is gone from NBC, I only have to return to see NFL Football, just like everyone else.

  29. Bob says:

    Letterman looks like he should be a funny guy, but everything he says is either nasty, obnoxious or a political attack. I can’t see why anyone would like him.

  30. Andy says:

    Letterman is obnoxious. That gets old real quick.

  31. Jim Davis says:

    Jay Leno should bring his number 1 show to a better network or syndication. I have no doubt that his viewers will follow him; because he has no real competition. Jimmy Fallon has a far different appeal; and his ratings will soon start to tank because it much easier to follow Leno’s lead in; than to replace him!

  32. Marvin Buckley says:

    If Letterman can’t make it on CBS, he can always fit in at MSNBC.

  33. Marvin Buckley says:

    If Leno isn’t ready to retire from TV, he doesn’t need NBC to continue his career. His audience will follow him to any network he wants to work for.

  34. Dave's Lady says:

    That is because Letterman has become an Obama pitch man and no one can stand his political rants anymore. It’s comedy, Dave. Try to blast all parties equally, you might still have an audience.

  35. Vince Sammy says:

    Jay should go over to CBS and kick Letterman out just to piss Jimmy Kimmel off!!

  36. JuanPescador says:

    Leno has the likability factor. Letterman does not. As well, Leno is one hard working son of a gun. He’s been doing stand-up all over the U.S. forever, thus he’s more in tune with Americans and knows what will get a laugh, etc. Letterman’s been living in a bubble. And as many stated, as Letterman moved far left he lost a lot of viewers and they will never come back. So it is obvious to me that Leno would be winning the ratings war quite easily. What is not so obvious is why NBC would kill it’s golden goose. I have my theories though. Best of luck to Leno wherever he goes. I’m sure he’ll take his audience with him.

  37. i used to think that all the networks were the same, but then a friend of mine went to work for NBC. We were all so excited for her. She came away completely disillusioned. She said it was a snake pit and warned me never to work for them. I went to work for myself instead and did alright. She went to work for CBS, where she retired recently, happy and appreciated. In my entire professional life, I have never heard anything positive about NBC – either news or entertainment.

  38. Use to tape Dave (that’s how long ago I was a fan). His constant Bush-bashing got old, just like Dave.

  39. readhistory says:

    Yeah, I remember when Letterman was a bitter young man spewing the same talking points. I did have the pleasure during one of the few times I watched him seeing one of guests call Letterman a jerk. The guest did follow up by saying that he meant it in the “positive sense of the term”. Haw Haw

  40. macca88 says:

    do any conservatives work or do anything except post on websites they’re directed to by Newsbusters?

  41. carlb says:

    leno is winning because he like howard stern did is giving them the finger on the way out. he was told to cut down on the obama jokes he refused like stern with the sex jokes and both are at war with the heads of stupidity. like stern with the morning radio show they are dumping the #1 rated late night show. like the news and cable news they all deserve to be at the bottom where they will stay and belong!

  42. Jamesb says:

    If Fox is smart – which they are – they’ll throw open the vault for Leno, build him a new L.A. studio – to his specs, give him full control – and let him be the alternative to Leftist late night TV.

    We’re seeing that business model in action – it works. Give middle-of-the-road and conservatives somewhere to go – we will tune in. It’s really that simple.

  43. So why cancel Leno? What moron is going to cancel Leno?!?

  44. twan jim says:

    Letterman is old and boring.

  45. BWW says:

    Leno follows in the grand tradition of Johnny Carson. He mocks everyone. You never knew Carson’s political leanings and the same can be said for Leno. with letterman there is no doubt and that’s how he wants it. Anyone with a conservative views, who cares about those views , wont watch Letterman anymore.

    • Maria Whitaker says:

      I watch Leno online a/c I can’t stay up that late. Otherwise, i don’t watch much TV at all, having made the decision after 2012 election not to participate in anything that will enrich an industry, most of whom finance politicians who happily step on the traditions of this country, my values, and beliefs. Mostly I use the TV to watch DVDs, and those are mostly from other English-speaking countries. I also don’t go to the movies — another conscious decision since Nov 2012 — for the same reason unless the biggest beneficiaries are not from Hollywood. I will not give them my money, what’s left after the government and inflation take care of the rest. The last movie I saw in the theater was Skyfall.

      • readhistory says:

        TV gone from our household since 1996. Raised four kids without it. Hooked up a VCR, then DVD, to a computer monitor and watched what we selected. Used the extra time to read to our kids and do things. Never regretted it.

      • getmikey says:

        ^^^ Ditto.

        Exactly what she said. All the way down to the onine watching Leno.

        I fired Comcast 2-1/2 years ago when they couldn’t fix my cable even after 10 days and digging up my neighbor’s yard in a half-baked effort to do so.

  46. vaag says:

    Letterman, who hasn’t said anything funny in 10 years, should have been shown the door a long time ago.

  47. vando says:

    Letterman laughs at the common man. Leno laughs with the common man.

  48. Segeny says:

    Fallon is okay, I guess. But I’ll follow Leno whichever channel he goes to.

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