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Jay Leno Ratings: Losing His Job Despite Beating His Rivals

Fallon is supposed to draw younger viewers — a demo Leno is winning. Yes, winning

One of NBC's reasons for replacing Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" is its hope that Fallon can compete with Jimmy Kimmel for younger viewers.

So Kimmel must be trouncing Leno in that demographic, right?

Actually, no.

Also read: Jay Leno's Sendoff, and Conan's Last Laugh

Leno is being shuffled from "Tonight" despite leading in the 18-49 demo most important to advertisers, in the 25-54 demographic most often used to gauge late night audiences, and in total viewers.

NBC isn't reacting to Kimmel beating Leno — it's reacting to its fears that Kimmel might start beating Leno soon.

That's because Kimmel is narrowly winning the 18-34 demo. It isn't one of the key demos in late night, but NBC is thinking about keeping viewers 18-34 as they get older. They don't want young viewers to form a Kimmel allegiance that could last for years.

That's a reasonable concern given that the 62-year-old Leno has hosted the same show for two decades, with only a brief interruption by Conan O'Brien.

But Leno can still complain — rightly — that he's the only one losing his job in late night — even though he's beating the guys who are keeping theirs.

Kimmel, Leno and David Letterman have been in direct competition since Kimmel moved to 11:35. in January.

Since then, Leno has averaged 3.53 milion total viewers, compared to 3.1 million for Letterman, and and 2.64 million for Kimmel.

In the 18-49 demo, Kimmel closes the gap — but is still behind Leno. Leno has 1.02 million viewers 19-49, compared to 936,000 for Kimmel and 873,000 for Letterman.

And in 25-54, Leno has 1.32 compared to 1.21 for Letterman and 1.2 million for Kimmel.

Kimmel has 332,000 viewers in the 18-34 demo, compared to 318,000 for Leno and 275,000 for Letterman.

How is Fallon faring? It's unreasonable to compare his numbers with those of hosts who air an hour before him. But he has 1.7 million total viewers, 669,000 viewers 18-49, and 778,000 viewers 25-54.

In 18-34, he has 293,000 — beating Letterman despite occupying a later timeslot. And in all four categories, Fallon beats his 12:35 rivals, Craig Ferguson and "Nightline."

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