×
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

  • Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral is seen

    Pathe, Vendome Pictures Join Forces on TV Miniseries About the Notre-Dame Fire (EXCLUSIVE)

    One of Europe’s most revered film groups, Pathé, is stepping into TV drama with Philippe Rousselet’s thriving Vendôme Group to co-produce an ambitious miniseries retelling the devastating fire that ripped through the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. The companies are partnering with U.K.-based Xavier Marchand’s Moonriver TV to co-develop the project, surely one of the highest-profile [...]

  • Donald Trump Hollywood Racism

    Trump 'Has Not Yet Seen,' but 'Strongly Condemns' Violent Anti-Media Video

    President Donald Trump hasn’t yet watched a violent video in which he’s depicted killing figures representing media outlets and his political rivals, but the White House says he “strongly condemns” it. “Re: the video played over the weekend: The @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based upon [...]

  • How Mipcom is Adapting Through 'The

    How Mipcom is Adapting to Wider Content Offerings Through 'The Streaming Offensive'

    With the rise of streamers rapidly changing the television industry, it was inevitable that the biggest TV market would have to address the evolution. A year after exploring the so-called big shift in television, the theme of this year’s Mipcom conference is the Streaming Offensive, with sessions from speakers including Amazon Studios’ head of international [...]

  • Ronan Farrow Noah Oppenheim

    NBC News Rebukes Ronan Farrow: 'We Have No Secrets'

    The battle for facts between Ronan Farrow and NBC News continues. The president of NBC News pushed back on some of the explosive claims made by Farrow Monday, calling into question an allegation that the NBCUniversal news outlet knew about sexual misconduct by former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer before he was fired in 2017 – [...]

  • Riviera and Das Boot Sky TV

    Inside Sky Studios' Plan to Be the 'Biggest European TV Producer'

    Comcast forked out $40 billion for Sky and is now backing its CEO Jeremy Darroch’s plan to turbo-charge its pipeline of originals. It has created Sky Studios and will double its programming outlay in a plan that insiders tell Variety will see it spend £1 billion ($1.2 billion) a year on original programming within five [...]

  • Jason Flemyng, Casting Director Lucinda Syson

    Jason Flemyng, Lucinda Syson Launch Film and TV Indie The Kernel Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jason Flemyng, fellow actor Ben Starr, casting director Lucinda Syson, and finance expert Cristiano D’Urso are opening The Kernel Factory, a new U.K.-based film and TV indie. Flemyng has a long list of movie credits including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content