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NBC’s Rising Leno Dominates Kimmel and Letterman

CBS veteran declines further, places third in key demos for second quarter; Peacock's Fallon hot

He’s a little more than six months away from passing the “Tonight Show” baton — again — but Jay Leno is very much still on his game ratings-wise.

In Nielsen numbers for the second quarter of this year, NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” was easily the top-rated hour in latenight. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” ranked second in key demos for a second straight quarter in its new, earlier timeslot and remains the youngest-skewing of the 11:35 p.m. talkshows.

Letterman‘s “Late Show” on CBS, meanwhile, continues to head in the opposite direction and logged one of its weakest quarterly performances on record. The program was down from last year in virtually every category except adults 50 and older.

Overall, NBC remains dominant in latenight, with “Tonight Show” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” winning all four half-hours from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. in all 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 demos as well as total viewers. Leno and Fallon beat their CBS competition head to head by their largest margins in four years.

Nielsen estimates that Leno, who will wrap his second stint as host of “The Tonight Show” in mid-winter, averaged 1.08 million adults 18-49 for the April 1-June 30 second quarter — up  8% from last year. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (885,000 viewers in the demo) ranked second and was up 25% from its average in a later timeslot last year, while “Late Show with David Letterman” slid 13% to 777,000.

In total viewers, Leno’s 3.575 million (up 2% from last year) was well out in front of Letterman (2.767 million) and Kimmel (2.490 million).

For ABC, Kimmel has now beaten Letterman in both quarters in which they have competed head to head. His advantage over Letterman was 24% in adults 18-34 and 7% in adults 35-49.

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“Nightline” continues to look bad in comparisons to 2012, when the show aired from 11:35 p.m. to midnight. It was off more than 50% in adults 18-49 (543,000), adults 25-54 (707,000) and total viewers (1.614 million).

But the show has gotten younger since shifting to a 12:35 a.m. start time and airing behind Kimmel; its median age for the quarter (54.2) was a full three years lower than last year.

NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” was up pretty much across the board for the quarter, averaging 1.78 million viewers, including 701,000 adults 18-49. Fallon was up 16% from last year in adults 18-34 — a good sign as he prepares to take over the “Tonight Show” reins from Leno following NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics last next February.

Airing in the same 12:35 a.m. hour, CBS’ “Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson” averaged 1.391 million viewers (up 1% from last year) and 491,000 adults 18-49 (off 6%).

In adults 18-49, the top-rated post-primetime program for the second quarter was Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (1.114 million), which finished a bit ahead of Leno and benefits from ending about an hour earlier than the NBC program. “Daily Show,” which was hosted in the final three weeks of the quarter by John Oliver, dipped 6% in adults 18-49 and 8% in total viewers compared with a year ago.

Comedy Central skedmate “The Colbert Report” was down a smidge from last year.

TOP POST-PRIMETIME
WEEKNIGHT SHOWS
(April 1-June 30, 2013)*

ADULTS 18-49

Daily Show (Comedy)                   1.114 million
Tonight Show (NBC)                      1.080 million
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)             885,000
Colbert Report (Comedy)               876,000
Late Show … Letterman (CBS)      777,000
Latenight … Fallon (NBC)               701,000
Nightline (ABC)                                   543,000
Conan (TBS)                                          532,000
Late, Late … Ferguson (CBS)         491,000

TOTAL VIEWERS

Tonight Show (NBC)                       3.575 million
Late Show … Letterman (CBS)   2.767 million
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)          2.490 million
Daily Show (Comedy)                    1.987 million
Latenight … Fallon (NBC)            1.780 million
Late, Late … Ferguson (CBS)      1.391 million
Nightline (ABC)                                1.614 million
Colbert Report (Comedy)            1.521 million
Last Call … Daly (NBC)                      899,000

*Most current data (does not include 7-day DVR playback for the last two weeks)

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