TV’s Late-Night Ratings Wars: ‘Tonight Show’ Wins Another Battle, Kimmel Viewers Come Close to Letterman’s

CBS’s “Late Show” edges ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” by a mere 39,000 total viewers

Another quarter over, another one in the books for current late night king Jimmy Fallon.

NBC’s “Tonight Show” topped the most recent three-month period with an average of 3.9 million total viewers, and a 1.12 rating in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic, according to Nielsen’s “most current” data, which includes Live 7 Day numbers where available.

Fallon’s figures handily beat closest competition “The Late Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

The outright (both total viewers and demo ratings) Fallon victory marks his fifth straight, four of which came on his own. The former “Late Night” host and his “Tonight” predecessor Jay Leno shared Q1 of 2014 behind the 11:35 p.m. desk.

This makes 13 straight quarters for “The Tonight Show” alone at the top. David Letterman last bested the NBC show in ratings during 2011’s Q4, and that was a super-tight 0.88 to 0.87 demo triumph.

In total viewers alone, “Tonight” has now taken 20 in a row. It was last runner-up by that metric came over the quarter of Conan O'Brien‘s departure and Leno’s return. Letterman secured a 200,000-plus viewer victory during that awkward NBC period.

This time, Letterman’s CBS show was second in total viewers over those 90-odd days, averaging a rounded 2.8 million viewers. Kimmel was close with 2.7 million, although the data shows that he actually only lost by 39,000 viewers a night. Kimmel’s ABC talker can claim second place in the main demo, posting a 0.63.

Letterman was not third, however — that honor goes to Jon Stewart‘s “The Daily Show,” with a 0.76 rating. The Comedy Central program was fourth in total viewers, with a 1.8 million average. Stewart is surely helped by the delayed viewing aspect of this particular Nielsen measurement, something Letterman doesn’t command much of. But Dave wasn’t fifth in the key adult group either — that distinction went to “Last Week Tonight’s” John Oliver (0.62), who puts up just one show per week. Then, finally, comes Letterman.

It is important to note that “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight” also run earlier and shorter — both important for awake audience and averages. Therefore, holding all shows on this chart to the same standards would be an admittedly apples-to-oranges comparison, despite the common day part. That said, Oliver’s pay-TV platform makes his solid numbers even more impressive at a deeper glance.

Behind the earlier top dogs, Seth Meyers beat his “Late Late Show” competition, which included Craig Ferguson, a slew of guest hosts, and only recently, newbie James Corden.

The fewest viewers overall on late night goes to Chris Hardwick’s “@midnight,” and by a pretty wide margin. To be fair, the Comedy Central program topped a few shows in average demo rating.

Here are the full late-night Q1 standings and statistics:

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