Colbert’s CBS late-night series averaged 3.29 million viewers per episode during the first three months of this year, while Fallon’s NBC show averaged 3.02 million. Colbert’s ratings in the total viewers metric are up 17 percent compared to Q1 of 2016, while Fallon’s are down from 2016 by the same percentage. This marks CBS’ first late night win in the first quarter since 2010.
However, Fallon was still the top dog in the key adults 18-49 demographic, which is the metric preferred by advertisers. Fallon averaged a 1.0 rating in the demo versus Colbert’s 0.8. Colbert’s demo rating was unchanged from the same time frame last year, while Fallon dipped slightly from a 1.3 rating average. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” ranked third in the 11:35 p.m. time slot in both measures, averaging 2.25 million viewers per episode and a 0.7 rating for the quarter.
As Variety previously reported, network insiders believe that the inauguration and the early days of the Trump presidency, which have fueled cable-news ratings long after they were expected to slide into a post-election slump, also inspired viewers curious about what Colbert — who came to prominence as a hard-punching political satirist on Comedy Central — was up to.
Colbert has gone full bore with his political and social humor, skewering the Trump administration almost every night. Fallon, meanwhile, has stayed mostly clear of politics, though he has frequently dressed up as President Trump for skits on “The Tonight Show.”