Leno widens ratings lead

Jump over Letterman largest since host's first week back

Nearly six months into his latenight return, Jay Leno has opened up a sizable ratings advantage over David Letterman.

Nielsen estimates for the week of Aug. 2-6 reveal that NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” topped CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” by a 41% margin in adults 18-49 viewers (1.29 million to 914,000) — the show’s largest lead opposite a week of mostly “Late Show” originals (it aired a repeat Friday) since March 1-5, Leno’s first week back.

Leno has yet to lose head-to-head to Letterman in the 22 weeks of regular shows since they renewed their rivalry.

“Tonight” also prevailed last week by a healthy 36% margin in total viewers (3.85 million to 2.83 million).

ABC’s “Nightline,” which concludes one half-hour before “Tonight” or “Late Show,” averaged 1.09 million viewers 18-49 and 3.30 million viewers overall, making it the No. 2 latenight show for the frame.

The healthy advantages for “Tonight Show” over “Late Show” must be encouraging for NBC: In the fourth quarter of last year (with Conan O’Brien as host), its latenight institution was roughly on par in 18-49 with CBS’ “Late Show” while falling well behind in total viewers.

Leno returned to “The Tonight Show” on March 1, a few weeks after the Peacock tabled its ill-fated experiment with “The Jay Leno Show” in the 10 p.m. slot Monday-Friday.

In the 12:35 a.m. slot last week, NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” posted its biggest advantage over “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” in 16 weeks among adults 18-49 (745,000 vs. 544,000) and 20 weeks in total viewers (1.63 million vs. 1.41 million).

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