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NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ Has Best May in Demos Since 2009; Solid Sweep for ABC’s ‘Jimmy Kimmel’

Three months into his run, Jimmy Fallon continues to produce strong numbers for NBC’s “Tonight Show,” which has finished May with its best demo performance in the sweep month in five years.

While “Tonight” surged more than 30% above its year-ago average with Jay Leno as host, it was up “just” a bit in total viewers — but that’s a tradeoff NBC will gladly take.

“Tonight’s” prime competitor, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” had a pretty good month too, retaining most of its year-ago demo audience — despite the stronger young-adult competition from Fallon — while gaining in total viewers. Kimmel, in fact, drew its largest-ever overall audience for a May sweep.

Looking at the live plus same-day Nielsen estimates for the April 24-May 21 sweep, “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” averaged a 1.14 rating in adults 18-49, up 34% from last year’s 0.85 rating with Leno. It was followed by ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel” (0.62, down 5%) and CBS’ “Late Late Show With David Letterman” (0.53, down 13%).

In total viewers, “Tonight” was up 2% from last year (3.599 million vs. 3.515 million), and comfortably ahead of CBS’ “Late Show” (2.748 million, down 1%) and ABC’s “Kimmel” (2.667 million, up 8%). Both Kimmel and Letterman seem to have picked up some viewers 50 and older who had been watching Leno.

The net result is that the overall audience for the three 11:35 p.m. talkshows was a combined 9.014 million — up 3% from May 2013. And in adults 18-49, the broadcast talkshows combined for a 9% higher rating (2.29 vs. 2.11).

For “Kimmel,” the 2.667 million is the show’s second largest average for a sweeps month (behind November 2013).

In the 12:35 a.m. timeslot, NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers” finished on top with a 0.58 rating in adults 18-49 (up 14% from last year with Fallon as host). CBS’ “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” logged a 0.34 rating (down 8%). ABC’s half-hour “Nightline” did a 0.41 rating (down 5%).

In total viewers, “Nightline” was the most-watched program starting at 12:35 a.m. (1.682 million), rising 4% from last year. NBC’s “Late Night” (1.601 million) was down 6% from last year (and edged ahead of the ABC news series in their common half-hour), while CBS’ “Late Late Show” (1.386 million) grew 3%.

At 1:35 a.m., NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly” did a 0.35 rating in adults 18-49 and 950,000 total viewers — up vs. May 2013 by 25% and 9% respectively.

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