NBC’s Rising Leno Dominates Kimmel and Letterman

Jay Leno

CBS veteran declines further, places third in key demos for second quarter; Peacock's Fallon hot

He’s a little more than six months away from passing the “Tonight Show” baton — again — but Jay Leno is very much still on his game ratings-wise.

In Nielsen numbers for the second quarter of this year, NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” was easily the top-rated hour in latenight. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” ranked second in key demos for a second straight quarter in its new, earlier timeslot and remains the youngest-skewing of the 11:35 p.m. talkshows.

Letterman‘s “Late Show” on CBS, meanwhile, continues to head in the opposite direction and logged one of its weakest quarterly performances on record. The program was down from last year in virtually every category except adults 50 and older.

Overall, NBC remains dominant in latenight, with “Tonight Show” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” winning all four half-hours from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. in all 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 demos as well as total viewers. Leno and Fallon beat their CBS competition head to head by their largest margins in four years.

Nielsen estimates that Leno, who will wrap his second stint as host of “The Tonight Show” in mid-winter, averaged 1.08 million adults 18-49 for the April 1-June 30 second quarter — up  8% from last year. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (885,000 viewers in the demo) ranked second and was up 25% from its average in a later timeslot last year, while “Late Show with David Letterman” slid 13% to 777,000.

In total viewers, Leno’s 3.575 million (up 2% from last year) was well out in front of Letterman (2.767 million) and Kimmel (2.490 million).

For ABC, Kimmel has now beaten Letterman in both quarters in which they have competed head to head. His advantage over Letterman was 24% in adults 18-34 and 7% in adults 35-49.

SEE ALSO: “Duck Dynasty” Ratings Provide Ammo for A&E

“Nightline” continues to look bad in comparisons to 2012, when the show aired from 11:35 p.m. to midnight. It was off more than 50% in adults 18-49 (543,000), adults 25-54 (707,000) and total viewers (1.614 million).

But the show has gotten younger since shifting to a 12:35 a.m. start time and airing behind Kimmel; its median age for the quarter (54.2) was a full three years lower than last year.

NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” was up pretty much across the board for the quarter, averaging 1.78 million viewers, including 701,000 adults 18-49. Fallon was up 16% from last year in adults 18-34 — a good sign as he prepares to take over the “Tonight Show” reins from Leno following NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics last next February.

Airing in the same 12:35 a.m. hour, CBS’ “Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson” averaged 1.391 million viewers (up 1% from last year) and 491,000 adults 18-49 (off 6%).

In adults 18-49, the top-rated post-primetime program for the second quarter was Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (1.114 million), which finished a bit ahead of Leno and benefits from ending about an hour earlier than the NBC program. “Daily Show,” which was hosted in the final three weeks of the quarter by John Oliver, dipped 6% in adults 18-49 and 8% in total viewers compared with a year ago.

Comedy Central skedmate “The Colbert Report” was down a smidge from last year.

(April 1-June 30, 2013)*

ADULTS 18-49

Daily Show (Comedy)                   1.114 million
Tonight Show (NBC)                      1.080 million
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)             885,000
Colbert Report (Comedy)               876,000
Late Show … Letterman (CBS)      777,000
Latenight … Fallon (NBC)               701,000
Nightline (ABC)                                   543,000
Conan (TBS)                                          532,000
Late, Late … Ferguson (CBS)         491,000


Tonight Show (NBC)                       3.575 million
Late Show … Letterman (CBS)   2.767 million
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)          2.490 million
Daily Show (Comedy)                    1.987 million
Latenight … Fallon (NBC)            1.780 million
Late, Late … Ferguson (CBS)      1.391 million
Nightline (ABC)                                1.614 million
Colbert Report (Comedy)            1.521 million
Last Call … Daly (NBC)                      899,000

*Most current data (does not include 7-day DVR playback for the last two weeks)

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  1. Leno fan says:

    Is anyone from NBC reading this stuff? Leno is #1

  2. Fox leno says:

    Leno, don’t think twice about it. Go to Fox. You’ll still win! We’ll be watching.

  3. newyorkgirl77 says:

    Ahhh yes, finally I get to speak my mind about 2 men I adore on the late night circuit that will be and are already a huge, huge hit now making the rating blast the other guys off the shows that are bad mouthing Leno, the best,the funniest, the comedic genius that some fool on late night TV thinks is going to bring in a new, younger crowd and guess what? Remember that insane time slot you put everyone on in 2010 for what reason? That was the worst move anyone could have ever made. Tell me something, isn’t a show, any show, television show, comedy,drama, movies all based on ratings, box office, money, money, money. Well now that I’ve actually seen the numbers I see why these jealous late night talk show hosts are talking smack about Leno. He’s a ratings genius. He’s the Seinfeld of late night Television. Look at his ratings. You honestly think Fallon is going to have a following like Leno? Ain’t gonna happen. There’s a reason why I would think executives would choose Jay to stay on for another 10 years because his rating are killer. He’s the TOP. What on earth is wrong with you people? I like Fallon for one reason and this is it. He’s not talking smack about anyone out there. Howard Stern was on his show the other day and frankly I’m really getting tired of Stern talking so badly about Leno and he has no legitimate reason. Everyone loves Leno. Young from 20-80 are his demographics. I have a great uncle in his mid 80’s and he’s a fan of Leno’s, went from Carson through the 60’s-’92 and Leno took over and he loves him now. We all watch him and are quite besides ourselves as to why you think Jimmy Fallon has what it takes to hold a crowd like Leno, the comic genius, Jay walking, so much more and take him away just so someone else can snatch him up because he’s going to have his choice, believe me,so will Craig Ferguson. He’s late night, but I can guarantee you, if you put him in another time slot next to Jay they both would be kicking some butt. He’s with Letterman’s WWP production co but Craig is extremely talented and I’ve been watching him since he hit the late night circuit as a newby and he’s incredible. He’s so funny. He has the gift that Leno has of being able to talk to anyone with no odd moments of uncomfortable silence that he actually makes the guest stars do as a skit to choose between the $50 bucks, the mouth organ or the uncomfortable silence. He’s attractive and funny and his accent is adorable. He’s really well loved in my huge family and we’ re all on various sides of the US., East, West, South and so forth.. the point is Conan was someone that truly is a child that needs ritalin. He’s exhausting to watch and I don’t find his spastic ways humorous. Immature. I hate the way yet now I see why, Letterman can’t even get a million to watch his show at the same time because Jay is the comedienne out of the two and many people who have gone on his show state that unless he really knows you well like Regis or a very few others, he has Paul there playing the music so loud when they go to commercial because he won’t speak to the guest there. I find that odd but at least 10 people have stated so and I do believe them. You can tell if he has a good rapport with a guest or simply nothing. Leno is hilarious. Don’t you think the damn ratings are a bit of a clue? Well, when Fallon and I mean him no harm or bad luck, but to let Jay go when you have killer ratings is the worst and most backward decision making I’ve ever heard of and I’ll follow Jay. I won’t stay for Fallon. I truly don’t find him as funny and he’s in his 30’s as well and that’s my demographic. Jay is I think he said 62 and I prefer him over Fallon. I think Kimmel who I have barely if ever watched, is acting like a child because the continual put downs and jealouse comments all these supposed grown men are making because Jay is making a killer rating over every single person on late night and you’ll lose money, share holders, you will see because I know you’ve received probably thousands and maybe a million letters stating what a stupid decision this is.Well he point is Fallon had better shape and become beyone super funny with huge, huge stars like Streisnd or Di Niro, I’m talking huge because this letter writing junk is just plain boring, the games he has people come on and show is a very dull segment. Even Stern stated so, but he has no say so because what will happen and it will be a regretful thing is that Leno is going to get such a great offer that he’s going to take his audience with him. You know it will happen. It’s not the time slots because I choose who I dvr as well and that counts in Neilsons as well. Bad decision. You should leave well enough alone. I think everyone is so utterly jealous of Jay’s kicking ratings butt against everyone of them out there that he’s going to have his pick of any show and a huge salary to boot. Bad decision guys. Very bad decision. You won’t see these numbers when Fallon takes Jay’s place. You’ll be regretful.

  4. Jorge Ber-Percivale says:

    To my view NBC is making the same mistake twice I see the end of The Tonight Show after Leno goes Why? Fallon is not ready for that spot

  5. Arran says:

    Wow, it got all Red State in here in a hurry. I find it hilarious that Republicans think anyone who makes fun of conservatives is a bleeding heart Communist and anyone who makes fun of Democrats is a good old boy. Leno is no Republican. He’s just taking advantage of a void in anti-Obama humor on late night. Similarly, Letterman hasn’t stopped being funny because he’s a liberal. He just got old and tired, like many comedians. And The Daily Show and Colbert Report are not blindly liberal shows. They make fun of hypocrisy on both sides. There just happens to be a little more hypocrisy on the conservative side, as evidenced by the clueless opinions in this topic.

  6. Cindy says:

    Now that Leno has the foot of producers and advertisers off his throat, he has been brilliant.

  7. MikeSpike says:

    Lorne Michaels is after a platform for 2014 and 2016 elections and he owns Jimmy Fallon. Michaels is politically minded, not thinking about entertainment.

  8. Walter says:

    This notion of focusing on “young” people is a joke. Theirs will be the first generation to do worse than their parents…and it will continue for generations to come. Disposable income will soon be a thing of the past.

  9. jimlove1 says:

    What you see with Letterman is not what you get. Letterman tries to come off as the smart, too cool, sophisticated guy in the room. But, underneath the expensive double breasted suits with the white socks, the smarmy comments and his head up Obama’s ass, lies a bitter, unfunny and untalented dork (probably one of the kids the other kids picked on in school) from Indiana who tries to be a big fish in the Big Apple.

  10. Bob says:

    I hope another station picks up Leno. Letterman is a jerk.

  11. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. Watching the far-left Letterman fail warms my heart. Like Oprah, Dave tied the Obama anchor around his neck and immediately plummeted to irrelevancy. LOVE IT.

  12. hughglass says:

    Leno knows what FNC knows..most intelligent Americans realize that we have put a lazy, incompetent AH in the WH and poking fun at the bum plays well. Can’t wait for Jay to join Fox! .Can you imagine him on Red Eye from time to time?

  13. Robert says:

    Jimmy fallon huh?
    We’ll see how that one works out NBC.

  14. JD says:

    No Conan? He’s better than all of them….

  15. boss says:

    Leno is not wanted at NBC since his views are not liberal enough. He invited Ron Paul on too many times and his jokes about Obama and illegals being “undocumented Democrats” unnerve his bosses. Cheers!

  16. a p garcia says:

    If Johnny Carson were in the poll, even Leno would play #2. The real winner will be FOX-TV when Leno leaves NBC, FOX will pick him up and he will be #1 again and NBC executives will do gymnastics and kick themselves in the butt.

  17. Bob Sevcik says:

    NBC dislike Leno because he satires Obama as he should…he satire bush too but his Obama satire hits to close to home to the MSNBC commies

  18. john w says:

    Leno needs to just walk into the old larry king slot and bring it back to life. But NO PC bull shit please let the guy go and ratings will pop…

  19. FoolKiller says:

    It’s not hard to understand. The closer Leno gets to leaving, the harder he puts down NBC.
    And since people hate NBC, this translates to ratings. So the closer Leno gets to leaving, the higher his ratings.

  20. RML says:

    After watching Leno for years, when he is gone, and sophomoric Fallon takes over, I will no longer watch the Tonight Show. I have tried to watch Fallon, and it is like amateur hour. NBC just continues to show that they do not know their audience or worse, they just don’t care if they have no audience (e.g. MSNBC). Maybe they hope to become government sponsored news and stay alive by confiscating our tax dollars, like GM (Government Motors).

  21. Cali says:

    I quit watching because he seemed to becomes so P.C. and it was totally out of his character. It all seemed so “forced”, now he seems to be back to himself.

  22. squeaky says:

    My favorite Letterman latey comes across as an angry old man.

  23. moron says:

    Yea, but Leno has cracked a joke or two about NBC’s Master.

  24. wistfulthinking says:

    Leno for President!

  25. Pro_sanity says:

    Of course Leno is hammering them. He’s become an “equal opportunity satirist” on the way out. There’s a whole 49% out there who like to see that.

  26. Heddbanger says:

    This is because Leno is actually a pretty funny, congenial guy. .
    Fallon clearly is…well, he’s an ay–holle. Anyone who would allow a guest to be insulted by his band cannot be watched. He is juvenile. His success will be modest at best.
    Kimmel is interesting…but that’s it.

  27. MY late nights with Jay Leno will be over once he’s gone. I will not watch Fallon.

  28. BuyGuns says:

    Typo…..I meant “Big” time. oops

  29. Rick says:

    When Jay started telling the truth about Obama, his ratings got better.

  30. Ken Puck says:

    Letterman is about as funny as cancer. His “stupid pet tricks” include showing up for work.

    Meantime, NBC has a genius for self-immolation, firing Leno. We will miss him.

  31. Donnie frank says:

    The Leno Show will be on Fox pretty soon!

  32. Carolinr says:

    Rick Marshall you are correct, ole Steverino was the best…smock, smock, smock.

    Letterman has never been funny, he’s just sophmoric and thinks we’re all sophmores in college acting like we’re cool because we think he’s funny.

    • Ken Puck says:

      I still can’t get “little black things” out of my head. Or the original “man-in-the-street” interviews. My favorite man-in-the-street interview was Tom Poston looking panicked when asked, “Hi, there, sir — and what is your name?” (Fumbling for wallet.)

      Sic transit gloria mundi. R.I.P., Steverino.

  33. JimInNashville says:

    Letterman’s comedy has deteriorated to the point where it is now genuinely cringe-worthy. Letterman comes across as a jaded bully.

    Leno is witty, well-prepared, generally very kind to his guests, and simply presents a much more enjoyable, stable persona.

    I find my blood pressure rising in annoyance after five minutes of Letterman. I used to tolerate him when he had guests I wanted to see. Now I won’t watch him at all.

  34. Carbona says:

    So why isn’t Conan listed on the poll?

  35. iambicpentamaster says:

    Who’s Letterman?

  36. Rick Marschall says:

    YES! Steve Allen’s syndicated Westinghouse show was the best of the best. Smock! Smock!

  37. Letterman started becoming bitter and mean spirited years ago. I don’t know what occurred in his personal life but something triggered this acute dislike of people. A conscious effort was made to interject liberal politics into his monologues and skits and as it has always done, it backfired. People want to be entertained,(especially at night) not lectured to. There was a time when he was fresh and funny, but I just feel sorry for him.

    • socal444 says:

      Why feel sorry for him? His “jokes” get applause from like minded audience members, but rarely get a laugh. He no longer offers comedy, but rather a stern talking to. He is so mean spirited that it is difficult to watch his interactions with the guests. I suppose that this passes for hip. His interview of Bill O’Reilly was a true embarrassment because it was so nasty. O’Reilly handled the ad hominem attacks with class, but it was a complete debacle.

  38. Lb2 says:

    Letterman is down because he got too political not funny political serious political and showed his bias. He used to be my favorite now he is not

  39. decredico says:

    What ever happened to that red-haired guy?

  40. Duude says:

    I’d love to see CBS dump Letterman and hire Leno.

  41. Rob says:

    I would like to see Leno get a slot on late night Fox.

  42. Darin says:

    On the other hand, it may in fact all be a publicity stunt, and they have no real plans to oust Jay.

  43. Rose says:

    Jay Leno has always been my favorite – always a class act!

    Letterman – I could never stand the site of him. Smarmy creep.

    Ferguson is ok, sometimes…

  44. Haha! They cut off their nose to spite their face just because he doesn’t toe the liberal line.

  45. Mel says:

    Letterman is declining because he has a political agenda which seems to make him a sycophant of the current administration. Leno makes fun of everyone regardless of party. His agenda is laughs.

  46. RedRoomFotog says:

    Craig Ferguson is the best thing to happen to TV since Ernie Kovacs in the 1950’s. He is erudite, mostly apolitical, well-read, and FUNNY.

    For “traditional” late night, it’s Jay Leno, hands down. Letterman is a lap dog for the Obama Administration.

  47. Greg says:

    Letterman is boring…. Hasn’t had more than two good jokes in years.

  48. Nightsong says:

    Jay Leno is the one and only with mature heart and soul, sophistication, sense of humor, dignity, and a real gentleman. He has a full scope and depth of personality and abilities. He is way out in front of all the others. It is possible that all those shows will experience a loss of viewers after Leno leaves NBC. The level and quality of television at that hour will have lowered. It will never be the same again, as his absence will cause a void of real strength which has fed and led the night time audience with something America seems to be slipping in producing – quality.

    Fallon is a terrific young gentleman and very best wishes to him. It will be some years before he reaches the maturity of insight and distinction of someone like Leno or Carson. Maybe no one will. And that is if television goes on with the same old agenda. Television tradition is nice, but there should be a time of graduation into new traditions also, with graduated quality that is, especially in the growing technology and open options we have. I would predict Leno’s leaving will be downward turning point of mid-night TV watching. The west coast receives Leno and Letterman at 11:30 p.m. Very best wishes to Jay Leno always.

  49. rotorhead1871 says:

    he is NOT going anywhere…just like the last time……..

  50. dotty says:

    I love Jay Leno on the Tonight Show and look forward to watching him nearly every night. I’ve tried liking Kimmel but just don’t care for him, or Letterman or Fallon. Leno’s stage presence is the very best there is in late night television and delivery of what’s written for him is superb. No one can replace this man. A huge mistake in thinking anyone else could replace him.

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