×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jimmy Fallon’s Debut as ‘Tonight Show’ Host Draws 11.3 Million Viewers

UPDATE: The debut of NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” averaged a 3.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 11.31 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s fast-national estimates released Tuesday by Nielsen. This is the second biggest audience for “Tonight” since May 2009, behind only Leno’s final episodes of “Tonight” (14.64 million on Feb. 6, and the 11.90 million who watched in May 2009 as the show transitioned to Conan O’Brien).

Compared to the “Tonight” season average on Mondays, Fallon’s debut was up 182% in total viewers (11.31 million vs. 4.01 million).
A new era in latenight television commenced on Monday, with NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” easily keeping the venerable program on top of the ratings heap.

Taking advantage of NBC’s dominance in primetime courtesy of its coverage of the Winter Olympics — and starting 30 minutes later than usual because of it — Fallon’s debut as host averaged a 7.1 overnight household rating/20 share, according to Nielsen. This put it about 80% higher than the combined overnight Monday rating for the programs hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC and David Letterman on CBS.

Coincidentally, the 7.1 is the same overnight score that NBC saw for its post-Jay Leno “Tonight Show” host the first time, as Conan O’Brien premiered to that rating in June 2009.

While no one expected Fallon to approach the huge 9.2/22 that Jay Leno logged with his recent “Tonight” swansong (at the more advantageous start time of 11:35 p.m.), Monday’s premiere-night rating is well above the previous high for Fallon as host of “Late Night” (4.8/13) and is slightly more than double what Leno averaged in his penultimate week of Jan. 27-31 (3.5/9). The season-to-date average in the metered-market overnight rating for “Tonight” is 2.9.

That 4.8 “Late Night” overnight rating for Fallon translated to about 6.6 million viewers in the nationals, so something in the vicinity of 10 million viewers is likely for his “Tonight Show” premiere. Preliminary total-viewer estimates are expected to be issued later today by Nielsen.

In the 25 markets with Local People Meters, the premiere of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” averaged a 3.4/17 in adults 18-49 — the highest ever for a Fallon-hosted latenight program and 62% bigger than the 2.1/10 for the Friday, Feb. 7 finale of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

Monday’s premiere, featuring Will Smith, U2 and celebrity cameos including Stephen Colbert, Robert De Niro and Tina Fey, marked the return of “The Tonight Show” to New York City, where it originated in 1954.

“Tonight” has been the No. 1-rated latenight program for most of the time it’s been on the air for NBC, from Jack Paar and Johnny Carson through the two stints of Leno. But with the passing of the baton from Leno to Fallon, both ABC (with Kimmel) and CBS (with Letterman) see an opportunity to gain competitive ground.

In a bid to provide as much support as possible for their latenight programs, ABC and CBS aired original dramas in the 10 o’clock hour on Monday (unusual for both to do so during the Olympics), but they were overwhelmed by the Sochi Games. The Olympics on NBC averaged a 14.6 overnight household rating/22 share in primetime on Monday — besting the combined tallies for ABC, CBS and Fox (12.7/19) and the highest since the opening Sunday (Feb. 9).

NBC has now effectively used its primetime ratings advantage during the Olympics to both send off Jay Leno and usher in Fallon as host of “The Tonight Show.”

The final night of “Tonight” for Leno, which aired Feb. 6, averaged a big 3.8 rating/16 share in adults 18-49 and 14.64 million viewers overall in Nielsen nationals. This made it the show’s largest overall audience in more than 15 years (since the night of the May 1998 series finale of “Seinfeld”), and was Leno’s top demo score since an appearance by President Obama in March 2009.

Fallon wrapped its run as host of “Late Night” one day later with a 2.1/10 in 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers overall in the nationals — the largest audience for the franchise since the June 1993 finale of “Late Night With David Letterman.” In the demo, it was Fallon’s second-best telecast ever, behind only a 2.5 rating for a special post-Super Bowl telecast in 2012, and the best for a regularly scheduled installment of “Late Night” since May 2004 (2.7), on the night of the “Friends” finale.

More TV

  • Jon Snow Arya Stark Game of

    'Game of Thrones' Final Season Vegas Odd Reveal Some Wild Theories

    With “Game of Thrones” hype at an all-time high, Las Vegas may be raking in as much money as the Iron Bank. HBO’s fantasy masterpiece has seized the gambling world’s attention nearly as much as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Fans spew countless theories on social media, such as which characters will be axed [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    John Singleton, the two-time Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as “mild.” According to TMZ, which first broke the news, [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    WarnerMedia Pulls Out of Audience-Targeting Alliance Open A.P.

    WarnerMedia is going its own way when it comes to helping advertisers find specific groups of TV-watchers. The company, a founding member of the audience-targeting media alliance known as Open A.P., said Friday it would withdraw from the group, citing its desire to pursue its own strategy under owner AT&T. AT&T purchased Time Warner in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content