Jay Leno: A Friday high for his “The Tonight Show” farewell

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Jay Leno signed off “The Tonight Show” on a high note, delivering the best ratings of his 17-year run for a Friday night telecast.

Leno’s swan song averaged an 8.8 household rating/20 share in Nielsen’s 56 overnight metered markets, which cover more than 70% of U.S. TV households. That marks a 126% hike over the show’s metered-market average (3.9) during the past quarter.

But it didn’t match the mark Leno set just two months ago, when President Obama guested on the show on March 19, his first visit since he was elected prez. That Thursday seg drew an 11.2/26 in the overnights, which was Leno’s best since his tribute to his “Tonight Show” predecessor Johnny Carson following his death in January 2005, which delivered a 12.4 household rating.

Back in 1992, Carson wrapped his 30-year “Tonight Show” tenure with a 31.9 rating/62 share in the metered markets.

Leno’s guests on Friday included his “Tonight Show” successor, Conan O’Brien (pictured above), who takes the helm on Monday. Variety’s Michael Schneider has all the color on the final seg right here.

Leno’s farewell, of course, is muted because the host is heading right back to NBC’s air this fall with a nightly 10 p.m. variety show.

Leno’s coattails took NBC’s fledgling “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to its second-best number (3.8/12) since Fallon’s March 2 debut. Fallon’s best to date (3.9/13) was the night of Obama’s appearance on “Tonight Show.”

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