Spoiler alert: It's done quite well in Week 1 compared to competitors’ premiere weeks, but the real ratings test will start Monday when the show loses its Olympics lead-in
Jimmy Fallon's “Tonight Show” has been killing it in the ratings — with a very strong assist from its Winter Olympics lead-in.
Over the course of the “new” NBC late-night franchise's first four days, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” has averaged a 2.8 rating/14 share in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic. These numbers make “Fallon” top dog in recent network late-night debut weeks — higher than Conan O'Brien's “Tonight” premiere week, which averaged a strong 2.5/11 in the key demo.
Below Conan is Jay Leno's return, which got a 1.5/7 over the course of its four shows during his second debut. However, TV's ever-changing landscape was different enough even just a few years ago to make the numbers difficult to compare to today's metrics: ABC, CBS, and NBC were averaging a 1.1 in 18-49 in the 11:35 hour, whereas today they do a 0.7.
At the bottom of the stubby pyramid of premiere weeks was 2013's “Jimmy Kimmel Live” timeslot switch, which had a 0.8/4 in the 18-49 demo.
In terms of average audience, the first week order remains the same: Fallon has pulled in 8.4 million per night thus far, Conan opened with a mean 6.4 million, Leno's return averaged 5.8 million and Kimmel rounded to 3.1 million.
The numbers are not a flawless comparison — after all, Fallon has benefited from NBC's Sochi Games coverage, which has led into his first four episodes. To-date, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” has kicked-off at midnight. That will change Friday when the curtain rises for the show's actual timeslot 11:35 p.m., featuring guest Justin Timberlake.
In defense of Kimmel's seemingly unimpressive numbers: the ABC personality's comparative debut week was a timeslot shift from midnight to the competitive 11:35 p.m. Naturally, the curiosity surrounding brand new hosts and the return of popular veteran Leno would outweigh that of a move to an earlier shift. Kimmel's first week figures also only incorporate three nights, not four, as his timeslot curtain rose on a Tuesday.
With the asterisks firmly in place, Fallon's real competitive ratings test will begin Monday when the late-night show loses it's Winter Olympics lead-in.
Fallon's Monday guests include Reese Witherspoon, Fred Armisen and musical guest Rick Ross with The Roots. Following “The Tonight Show,” Seth Meyers’ makes his own debut on “Late Night,” where Armisen serves as bandleader.
For the record: An earlier version of this story referred to Kimmel's original timeslot as 12:35 a.m. ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ previously aired at midnight. TheWrap regrets the error.