Jay Leno accomplished his goal of going out on top — in a big way.
The final week of his “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” drew its largest overall audience (averaging 8.29 million) in the more than 20 years since the week of the “Cheers” finale, according to Nielsen estimates — a frame that came during Leno’s first year as host of the latenight institution.
Leno also beat his rivals David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel — who combined for 5.5 million viewers — by his largest margins ever.
The final night of “Tonight” for Jay Leno, which aired Thursday following Olympics action in primetime on NBC, averaged a big 3.8 rating/16 share in adults 18-49 and 14.64 million viewers overall. This made it the show’s largest overall audience in more than 15 years (since the night of the May 1998 series finale of “Seinfeld”), and was Leno’s top demo score since an appearance by President Obama in March 2009.
For the season, “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” finished with its biggest 20-week averages in both adults 18-49 and total viewers in three years. It was up 15% in 18-49 viewers (1.22 million vs. 1.05 million) and 16% higher in total viewers (4.14 million vs. 3.57 million).
Jimmy Fallon, who has seen ever larger year-over-year gains this season, wrapped its run as host of “Late Night” with the franchise’s best weekly total-viewer average (4.20 million) since May 1992 (when it was boosted by the final week of Johnny Carson as “Tonight Show” host). He also logged his best-ever weekly 18-49 rating (1.3) and the franchise’s top score since 2005.
Through 20 weeks, “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” logged its top numbers since 2009 and its largest overall audience since Fallon became host. The show is up 27% in 18-49 viewers (864,000 vs. 680,000) and 24% in total viewers (2.13 million vs. 1.71 million).
Fallon debuts as host of the “Tonight Show” on Monday.