Young Viewers Drawn to Jimmy Fallon on NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’

Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Ratings

NBC program is skewing younger while its rivals have aged up

In its second week, and its first in its regular timeslot, NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” delivered more impressive numbers, especially among the youngest of adults.

According to Nielsen nationals released Thursday, the addition of L+3 time-shifted viewing (DVR playback within three days) has lifted the average audience of “Tonight” for the week of Feb. 24-28 to the show’s third largest tally (6.404 million) since the first week of Conan O’Brien as host in 2009.

The only weeks to draw better were Fallon’s first week (8.49 million from Feb. 17-21 for its episodes starting at 12:05 a.m. due to Olympics coverage on NBC) and Jay Leno’s final week (8.29 million for its four nights, Feb. 10-13).

In same-night results, “Tonight Show” last week delivered a larger audience (5.451 million viewers) than the combined totals of “Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS (2.728 million) and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC (2.632 million). And the NBC program was even more dominant among adults 18-49, with its 2.243 million viewers in the demo well more than the combined tallies of second-place “Kimmel” (828,000) and third-place “Late Show” (682,000).

In the demo, “Tonight” more than doubled its performance during the same week a year ago (with Leno as host) while Kimmel was 9% lower and Letterman was off by 17%. “Jimmy Kimmel” did post year-over-year gains in total viewers (2.63 million vs. 2.48 million) while “Late Show” limited its loss to 4% — with both shows seeming to have picked up some of Leno’s followers.

Fallon’s program attracted a median age of 52.7 (down from the 58.4 for “Tonight” a year ago with Leno), compared to 56.2 for Kimmel’s (up from 53.7 last year) and 59.2 for Letterman’s (up from 57.2).

This young skew was especially evident when looking at viewership in the younger half of the 18-49 demo (18-34), a category in which “Tonight Show” (991,000 viewers) drew more than three times the audience of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (300,000) and more than four times that of “Late Show” (216,000).

Following Fallon’s second week on “Tonight,” the premiere week of “Late Night With Seth Meyers” averaged 3.011 million total viewers, including roughly 1.4 million in the 18-49 demo. It was the second most-watched “Late Night” week, behind Fallon’s final week, since before the era of DVR time-shifting, back to early May 2004.

The median age for “Late Night” was 49.8, according to Nielsen.

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  1. DVR time shifting is just another BS buzz word for looser. IF, and it is a BIG IF, those DVR events ARE viewed, you can bet your bottom dollar (someone is) that the commercials are zapped out of the viewing. Sponsors pay for eyeballs. NOT for eyeballs to watch the show, rather to hear and see their messages. Viewing a Fallon Late Night episode is extremely non-nourishing. It takes as many calories to watch it as there are calories in the show. The younger generation tunes in, not for the predictable goofy drama of Jay walking, or Dollar Store Bargains, or Stupid Headlines, but rather to see something outrageous. Outrageous is easy enough to do…1, 2, or 3 times in a row, but EVERY NIGHT of the week? NO!

    What passed for popular entertainment every night for the passed 22 years, indeed for the past 52 years, contained an equal measure of predictability, silliness, and witty, timely, comedy. Fallon, similar to O’ Brian, goes for the stupidity, slapstick, and outrageous. Trying to keep a young demographic stimulated for an hour every evening while you find and deliver the daily dose of outrageousness will, in the end, fail. The young can’t stay focused for that long and the standup routine is NOT holding the older audience even for the 10-12 minutes that Jay held them.

    I WONDER if Jay got a large SWAG bag full of ‘hundert’ dollar bills on his way out the door? It will be a cold day on Santa Monica Pier before they can convince him to come back. Oh well, there is always David Leterman. He is still pining over the fact of not getting picked the last two times to do the show.

    Darrow…for the Prosecution

  2. Rick Carney says:

    All Jimmy Fallon has done is bring his old Late Night to The Tonight Show. If NBC HAD NOT SPENT SO MUCH MONEY PADDING THE FIRST TWO WEEKS WITH BIG STARS, he would be just a Saturday Night Live duplicate show on late night.

    It’s all skits and acts.

  3. Karen Mendy says:

    I’m definitely NOT in the 18-49 demographic at age 64, but I’ve always enjoyed Jimmy Fallon’s games, slow jam of the news, hash-tag segments and spot on imitations of big name singers. However, I enjoy Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, Lie Witness News, and excellent, comfortable interviews. I’m DVRing both shows so I can enjoy both while speeding through commercials. I may be older, but I’m not brain dead and appreciate good comedy.

  4. The late night time period was always the place to go for a younger audience. Leno brought a different style to the show and it worked, for a while. Jimmy Fallon will recapture that cool essence that was missing.

  5. Jimmy is GOOD. He brings a “fresh” perspective to The Tonight Show. He has a GREAT band, brings cool “stars” to the show and does some of the most of the wall foolishness I’ve seen in a long time. This show may not be for the “older” generation, but being Generation X (I’m 42 years old) it works for me. Props to Jimmy Fallon… Make history, Kid.

  6. I like Jimmy Fallon and I wish him well. However, I wish he’d grow up a bit. Playing silly games like he did tonight with Lindsay was just not entertainment. Also, when he has guests on like Liam Nieson, he needs to do a decent interview that allows the guest to speak. He is a fabulous actor, but Jimmy spent more time playing kid games. I believe Jimmy is talented, but as a talk show host, he should be focusing more on the guests than his own talents. Too much of the same silly stuff like the hashtag Twitter crap. I would like to see some of the tonight show segments that Jay had that made the Tonight show so good, brought to this Tonight show. ie: interacting more with the audience, people on the street I think Seth Myers is doing a great job with the Late Show, but I’d like to see him get a more comfortable set, just saying…..
    .

    • Charlotte says:

      I think i will feel the same way about Jimmy when I’m 55 years old and he is being replaced by a younger version of him. Jay was great but the audience is changing and the host needs to change with it. Im glad he isn’t doing any of Jay’s bits and bringing his own feel to the show. In terms of his childishness i hope that NEVER goes away. Its what makes Jimmy …Jimmy. You cant ask someone to be more like someone else. The world would be way too boring if we were all alike. Love Jimmy. Love the show. Wouldn’t change a thing.

  7. Jay says:

    As much as I enjoyed Leno, I think NBC made a strategically-sound call in replacing him with a younger Jimmy Fallon in order to retain a young viewership for the long run. While many critiqued the decision, I think this news should vindicate the executives at 30 Rock.

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