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Late Night Ratings: NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ Still Rolling One Year After Jimmy Fallon’s Debut

Jimmy Fallon celebrated his one year anniversary as host of “The Tonight Show” with a dominant ratings victory during the February sweep.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” boosted in part by a weeklong trip to Los Angeles, drew nearly as many young adults (1.451 million/1.14 rating) as the combined totals of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (808,000/0.64 rating) and CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” (668,000/0.53 rating), according to “live plus same-day” Nielsen estimates.

In total viewers for the Jan. 29-Feb. 25 sweep, “Tonight Show” led with an average nightly audience of 3.882 million viewers, followed by “Late Show” (2.847 million) and “Kimmel” (2.763 million).

Comparisons to last February aren’t exactly apples to apples as the year-ago month included the highly rated opening days of Fallon on “Tonight” (he started Feb. 17) as well as some Olympics-related delays and pre-emptions.

But comparisons to his previous full sweep months as “Tonight Show” host are favorable. The 1.14 rating for last month was up 13% from last November (1.01) and matches the rating that “Tonight” generated in May 2014, which stands as the No. 2-rated sweep month for the program since May 2009 (behind only last February).

In total viewers, February topped both November (3.632 million) and May (3.599 million).

CBS’ “Late Show” was up 8% in 18-49 and 7% in total viewers vs. its November 2014 sweep, while ABC’s “Kimmel” was down 10% in the demo and 6% lower in total viewers. Both Letterman and Kimmel were up vs. their May 2014 numbers, and Kimmel was also up vs. last February.

May will be the final sweep month for Letterman, who is exiting CBS’ “Late Show” that month after more than 20 years with the CBS program and more than 30 years in latenight overall. Stephen Colbert makes his debut as “Late Show” host in September.

Following “Kimmel,” ABC’s “Nightline” (0.41 rating in 18-49, 1.710 million viewers overall) was down a smidge from November but up across the board from last February; in total viewers, this is the show’s best-ever finish in a February sweep. “Nightline” finished ahead of CBS’ “Late Late Show” in both 18-49 and 25-54.

NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers” led the 12:35 a.m. hour in adults 18-49 with a 0.51 rating, matching its November average. “Late Night” soundly defeated ABC’s “Nightline” head-to-head in adults 18-49 (0.57 rating vs. 0.41) and also won in total viewers (1.819 million vs. 1.711 million). For its full duration, “Late Night” averaged 1.62 million viewers in February.

CBS’ “Late Late Show,” without a regular host, was basically even in 18-49 vs. the November sweep with Craig Ferguson (0.30 vs. 0.31 in November with Craig Ferguson).

Of note in cable, TBS’ “Conan” was up 5% in 18-49 (493,000 vs. 470,000) and 10% higher in total viewers (806,000 vs. 736,000) vs. last February

In daytime, meanwhile, CBS’ “Let’s Make a Deal” (3.66 million average for its two half-hours) and “The Talk” (2.96 million) drew their largest February sweep audiences to date. And “The Bold and the Beautiful” (3.97 million) drew a seven-year high in total viewers.

In the morning news race, ABC’s “Good Morning America” won the February sweep in adults 25-54 over NBC’s “Today” by its largest margin (114,000 viewers) since 1993, according to “most current” Nielsen estimates. It also won its 11th straight sweep month in total viewers (5.729 million vs. 5.142 million for “Today”).


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