Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Leno, Fallon Carry NBC to Late-Night Dominance in Premiere Week; both hosts off to best ratings start since 2010

NBC has carried its primetime momentum over to latenight, as Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon opened the season with dominant performances in their timeslots and their best premiere-week scores in three years.

According to Nielsen, “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” averaged 1.21 million adults 18-49 for the week of Sept. 23-27, up 29% from last year and well ahead of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (863,000) and CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” (792,000).

Kimmel was up 38% from last year when he aired at a later time, while Letterman was down 8%.

In total viewers, “Tonight Show” drew 3.68 million (up 12% from last year), followed by “Late Show” (3.14 million, up 5%) and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (2.43 million, up 36%).

Leno’s guests included Justin Timberlake, Dana Carvey and Sandra Bullock. Kimmel booked Paul McCartney, Jon Hamm and Rebel Wilson, among others, while Letterman’s guests included Bill Clinton, Cher and Bono.

Letterman continues to skew older, logging a median age of 58.9 during premiere week. Leno’s median age was 56.5, and Kimmel’s was 54.1.

in the 12:35 a.m. timeslot, “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” soared 29% year to year to 764,000 adults 18-49 — easily topping ABC’s “Nightline” (516,000 for its half-hour, down 50% from its earlier timeslot a year ago) and “Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson” (470,000, down 3% from last year).

NBC’s latenight shows were aided by the network’s good performance in primetime during premiere week, which it won in adults 18-49 and 25-54 by healthy margins.

Led by dramas “The Blacklist,” “Chicago Fire” and “Law & Order: SVU,” the Peacock’s 2.3 average rating in adults 18-49 in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour on weekdays put it ahead of ABC and CBS (both at 1.9). It similarly held the edge in adults 25-54 (3.0), followed by CBS (2.6) and ABC (2.3).

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more
Comments 62