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. kimdi01 says:

    Leno is doing great and NBC is letting him go. Does this make sense? MSNBC is doing what ever it is they are doing. They are so low in the ratings you can’t find them and yet NBC is keeping them around. No wonder this network is so bad.

    • getmikey says:

      NBC has been sold more than once. Each time, somebody is determined to show Leno the door.

      it seems that every time a new management comes on line, they feel the need to tweak what’s already working beautifully to put their “personal stamp” on it. Just like when a new CEO takes the helm and immediately tells all workers that “telecommuting is out, get your butts into the office, people.”

      But the difference between Yahoo and NBC is, Yahoo’s situation before the change was not working, had the company moving in a negative direction. But with NBC, what they bought was working just fine, yet they just HAD to go and change it, just BECAUSE.

      I don’t know why. Maybe it was so they could stroke their gigantic egos and their tweezer-sized ***ks at the same time. Maybe because they took a look at Jay’s gigantic salary and thought that if they cut it they’d improve their stock valuation . . . putting the cart before the horse because over the short term the cart was more valuable without the horse due to Wall Street expectations.

      Whatever it is, it just needs to stop. But the jerks at the top don’t know how to stop because their hands are full, probably trying to find their puny you-know-whats without actually reaching for the tweezers . . .

  2. vic mackey says:

    Letterman hasn’t been funny in 25 years.

  3. Shut up about the politics. If a guy is funny and entertaining, I don’t care about his politics.

    Letterman just looks tired, that’s all. And Leno always had the advantage of being in L.A., where most of the celebrities live.

  4. Sparky2 says:

    Young people are finally getting off the media induced liberal bandwagon and are seeing how Obama and team is screwing up their jobs, healthcare and overall misery index. Letterman is part of the Obama culture, Leno isn’t led by the NY/Hollywood mentality. He’s more in touch with middle America.

  5. eramthgin says:

    Can the people at NBC become any stupider? This is now the second time that NBC has fired Leno! Both times he was at the top of the charts. Who is the MORON at NBC that is making these decisions? Why would anyone for a second time cancel the top rated show in their lineup. No wonder the total viewership at NBC is tanking.

  6. Linclon Smith says:

    Just think what Stupid Mistake BSNBC made by getting rid of Leno.Not to Smart!

  7. jim says:

    Letterman’s brand of smug, “we are better than them”, crap has worn thin. ‘Bout time

  8. DPaul says:

    Letterman is offensive, plain and simple. He long ago stopped being funny when he became a propagandist for the leftists, all the while making millions as a capitalist.

  9. Hummm? wonder why people are not watching Letterman? Oh wait!, could it be people just don’t find sour, frustrated old men entertaining, nor humorous?

  10. amy bannister says:

    Present-day Dave seems to have forgotten what old Dave knew so well. It’s not about politics. It’s about questioning authority.

    If he wants to see his ratings rebound, all Dave has to do is what he once did so magnificently: Stick a finger in the chests of our leaders – regardless of party — and expose them for the imperfect mortals we all know them to be.

    Johnny Carson could take aim at both sides of the aisle with equal enthusiasm. And if he felt guilty about betraying his party of choice, no one ever knew. That’s because Johnny understood that as America’s court jester, his job was to question and mock the status quo – his own politics be damned. If only Dave were as professional.

    It’s a shame to see someone who was once synonymous with defying authority now so smugly and contentedly aligned with it.

  11. Edgar Fahs says:

    Letterman is just not funny anymore.

  12. Francis says:

    Don’t know how I’ll make it without Jay Leno

  13. Sharp Al says:

    Resist we much!

  14. stu001 says:

    Well-said sir

  15. Russ says:

    Letterman is a nasty, bitter old man and it’s no wonder the younger audience is not watching him. It’s hard to believe how quickly he got old and nasty.

    • dave pearson says:

      Exactly right. Letterman was must-see TV for me for years — decades, even — until he went partisan, harshly so, and then dug in his heels to stay there. Over time he became Olbermann Lite. Letterman’s idol was Johnny Carson, and you can’t name a latenight host Letterman is less like. He’s become as unfunny as he used to (hilariously) accuse himself of being. What a predictable, political bore.

  16. Bob says:

    Conan O’Brian has the best show; much funnier.

  17. Jack Riley says:

    Heard letterman on sterns show this week. He is a nutcase and was advocating death to Leno. Wasn’t even remotely funny.

  18. I believe Fallon is doing well in large part because he has Leno as a lead in. On his own in Leno’s time slot I think he’ll be in a race with Letterman. What does NBC’s top brass have against Leno who is clearly the leader and who also clearly doesn’t want to leave. Did he sleep with someone’s wife? The powers that be need to find a hose’s head in their bed.

    • mikespike says:

      Fallon will be fine until Lorne Michaels takes over.He will try make Fallon into an extension of SNL. Fallon won’t be up for long. It is raw preparation for upcoming elections.Liberals on the move

  19. MissButterfly says:

    Letterman is still on television?

  20. Susie says:

    I hate to see Jay go. I have really become attached to him since he started on Obama! He makes me laugh so hard! The segment on “Jaywalking” is unbelievable to show how the American people have gotten so stupid in the last few years. Sometimes I think they have to be acting like that on purpose. The only good thing that will come of this is that I can get back to make normal sleep schedule!

  21. Bill Lane says:

    I like Leno, but his habit of repeating the punch line of every joke, in several variations, after he gets the laugh, is so annoying I have trouble watching him. Why does he do that?

  22. Jes Beard says:

    There were many nights this past year when I would turn into bed after my wife was already laying down and Letterman was on in his monologue and I insisted on changing stations because I refused to listen to him kiss Obama’s backside. I doubt I am alone, and as Obama’s poll numbers continue to slump, I will likely have more and more company.

  23. Notice when Leno started leaning more RIGHT that his ratings went waaaaaay up?! Also, when they had that stupid strike and he had to write his own stuff? FAR and AWAY funnier. I mean F U N N I E R!

    • Guinness says:

      Don’t be fooled by Leno he voted for Obama and is a democrat supporter he’s just using what’s popular for his monologue.

  24. Norm DeGehr says:

    So? Its like saying that, “Twice as many people get killed by badgers each year as do by porcupines.”

  25. John Henrick says:

    I didn’t know Letterman was still alive!

  26. Max says:

    Jay has shifted to the political middle the past six-months an the ratings show the benefits, Letterman can try anything he likes to no avail since he’s alienated most his viewers years ago and they haven’t looked back. If Jay takes his current position over to Fox they would tear into NBC’s ratings and open up a great lead-in to a second slot right after Jay. I don’t think it would take much to convince Jay to join Fox and make the brass at NBC regret the way they’ve treated Jay Leno.

  27. Max says:

    Leno is the clear leader, Fallon is only up as a result of Leno’s increase and lead-in, once Leno is gone Kimmel will likely get Leno’s viewers, until Leno pops-up on that other Network.

  28. taking notice says:

    Bingo! You are absolutely right.

  29. Bruce Pal says:

    Letterman has made himself unwatchable by unveiling himself as a liberal.

  30. Falon is going to bomb after Jay leaves.

  31. Sean Adams says:

    I watch 9 news after the news I change to NBC on my tv that is 75 plus one up places it in HD (I am not paying the extra for the HD) I watch Leno then I go back to my History channel and Discovery channel programming blended with Internet. YT you do too many commercials I don’t watch them I have a TV set just eyeshot over my computer screen I bounce back and forth between them avoiding advertisements. Goes for you too NBC and ABC.

    • Sean Adams says:

      Oh and BTW when you put your Fallon boy in there I will do like I did when you put the redheaded peckerwood in there. I will do without the night show. Leno or nothing at all.

  32. Jim Busse says:

    Class and civility versus a boorish dirty old man.

  33. alan says:

    Letterman is way to partisan and viewers do not want this type of humor. Leno is no conservative, but not quite the partisan and keeps it real.

  34. pkklaus says:

    so true

  35. pkklaus says:

    letterman=too snarky, political

  36. Upstate NY says:

    Letterman; Snarky, Rude, Lazy, Condescending, Elitist, and Just Not Funny
    Leno; Current, Humorous, Funny Skits, Variety, Friendly and welcoming host
    Fallon: Lots of Talent, Immature Interviewer like a college intern, Is enthusiastic but with no style. Comes across as hyper and pushing the material. Will lose 50 % of Jays audience.

  37. Ezer Album says:

    Fallon, the next Conan…..

  38. george says:

    well, leno could be picked up by CBS to replace fuddy duddy letterman, at least johnny carson had sense enough to retire when he did. Johnny was the last true funny man who never made fun of anyone, like these partisans do. If there’s an good classic movie on cable, I’LL watch it, time for letterman to retire.

  39. Rick says:

    Could it be because Dave has been using the same old, tired garbage for decades?

  40. Popp says:

    Nobody is worse than Kimmel. He was totally shoved down our throats. Nobody likes him or talks about him that I know. Viral videos are done by everyone now and his vids catch our attention maybe what, 2 times a year? He’s vile to look at, his humor is based in mocking cruelty and I hear he’s not only a racist but a major a#ole, promoting his wife to head writer over way more experienced, talented people. Yuck. Worse kind of Hollywood. Bring back Nightline, which still did better than Kimmel at 1130.

  41. Bruce Hood says:

    Because he bags on obama when he deserves it so people tune in to see him do something they can’t see anywhere else on T.V.

  42. A. Levy says:

    It’s been so long since Letterman has been anywhere near being funny, that most people can’t even remember. His (true) obnoxious attitude shows through his faux “comedy”.

  43. Mike Harmon says:

    Leno is a Democrat but an equal opportunity politician basher. Non-Democrats appreciate the fairness.

  44. Mike Harmon says:

    When Letterman stopped political jokes with Obama’s election it became obvious that all his Bush bashing was hate and not just political humor. When he started recycling jokes and stopped ad libbing with the audience it became obvious he got too lazy to try anymore.

  45. Robb Moffett says:

    Letterman got lazy. Ferguson puts out 5 times the effort and laughs per show than letterman who endlessly recycles old bits and wears his politics like a crown. You can’t please everyone, and it is hard to and thankless to be funny, but lazy is lazy, and he is just not that funny anymore..

  46. When I was 20, Letterman was amusing.
    But now that I’m 45, I look back and still see that moronic snaggleTooth old geezer acting like he did when I was 20.

    That sh!t is not funny anymore.

  47. NY liberals are the only ones that think that Letterman is intelligent, well informed and witty. After all , look at what they elect. But then I suppose that having a face like Mortimer Snerd could be considered funny.

    • Martin B. says:

      I think viewers have gotten wise to propaganda versus substance. Letterman is a tired propagandist whose better days are behind him.

  48. Phil Dirt says:

    The only comedy show on now that is funnier than Jay’s is on at 3 am on FOX (Red Eye). Dave… not so funny.

  49. mishy says:

    thats cause gap tooth is a loser!

  50. sheila says:

    Of course he is, he’s the very best.

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