Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ Tops Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ in Total Viewers for Q1

Fallon Colbert Ratings Battle
Courtesy of NBC/CBS

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” outdrew “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in total viewers for the first quarter of 2017, according to Nielsen data released on Thursday.

Colbert’s CBS late-night series averaged 3.29 million viewers per episode during the first three months of this year, while Fallon’s NBC show averaged 3.02 million. Colbert’s ratings in the total viewers metric are up 17 percent compared to Q1 of 2016, while Fallon’s are down from 2016 by the same percentage. This marks CBS’ first late night win in the first quarter since 2010.

However, Fallon was still the top dog in the key adults 18-49 demographic, which is the metric preferred by advertisers. Fallon averaged a 1.0 rating in the demo versus Colbert’s 0.8. Colbert’s demo rating was unchanged from the same time frame last year, while Fallon dipped slightly from a 1.3 rating average. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” ranked third in the 11:35 p.m. time slot in both measures, averaging 2.25 million viewers per episode and a 0.7 rating for the quarter.

As Variety previously reported, network insiders believe that the inauguration and the early days of the Trump presidency, which have fueled cable-news ratings long after they were expected to slide into a post-election slump, also inspired viewers curious about what Colbert — who came to prominence as a hard-punching political satirist on Comedy Central — was up to.


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Colbert has gone full bore with his political and social humor, skewering the Trump administration almost every night. Fallon, meanwhile, has stayed mostly clear of politics, though he has frequently dressed up as President Trump for skits on “The Tonight Show.”

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  1. Jeanne Johnson says:

    What I want to know is whether, over time, overall viewership is up, down or the same. Does Colbert have a larger share of the same sized audience or a larger share of a smaller audience because many people like me have just stopped watching late night television? I’m so tired of political diatribes and Trump Derangement Syndrome that I’ve stopped watching late night television or accessing mainstream news. It’s really, really tiresome.

  2. Jeff Young says:

    Judge Judy has 9.94 million viewers … Twice as many as these two fools..

  3. John Steel says:

    Might be time for Fallon to get some new material besides Trump bashing.

  4. heyitsron says:

    NBC is learning the chickens come home to roost when they scuttled the best, that best what NBC considered “the old man” for the kid who “must have” it. So we’re left guessing how Steve (Cold Bare or Cold Bert) would stack up against Jay. If NBC had someone to stop them. Back then. But no one did. So now is now. And then was then.

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