With Jimmy Kimmel on Vacation, How Will Late-Night Shows Rank This Summer in Ratings?

Even without an NBA Finals to follow, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is off to a hot start this summer

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Jimmy Kimmel is taking the next few months off — just when he finally surpassed that other pesky late-night Jimmy, Fallon, in TV ratings.

ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” will still have six weeks of original episodes through July and August. The (virtual, likely) guest hosts temporarily filling Kimmel’s loafers present a problem of predictability in terms of TV ratings. Some names may draw a bigger crowd than Kimmel himself would; others may not.

Kimmel knows quite a bit about the ratings power of a good guest host. When the morning show “Live” was trying out guest hosts to become Kelly Ripa’s permanent partner, a sweepstakes ultimately won by Ryan Seacrest, Kimmel drew the highest TV ratings of all 68 temporary fill-ins. He also happened to be the first one in the post-Michael Strahan era. Due to his schedule, though, Kimmel was never a real contender to take over the empty seat first made famous by Regis Philbin.

Last year, Kimmel hosting “Kimmel” came in third (out of three) for the summer season in his late-night time slot, his usual position. The “Man Show” alum was looking up a bit at Jimmy Fallon and NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” Both Jimmys were craning their necks to see Stephen Colbert and CBS’ “Late Show.”

Here’s a breakdown in the key adults 18-49 demographic:

  1. Colbert: 0.41 rating
  2. Fallon: 0.39
  3. Kimmel: 0.37

The trio ranked the same way in terms of total viewers, though there, Colbert’s lead is more substantial. See below:

  1. Colbert: 3.20 million viewers
  2. Fallon: 1.93 million
  3. Kimmel: 1.85 million

All viewership statistics in this story come from Nielsen’s Live + 7 Day metric, though daily late-night shows don’t get a ton of DVR viewing.

In summer 2019, which counts May 27 through Sept. 22, Kimmel aired the most original episodes, with 63. Fallon was second with 55 original episodes, Colbert did 53.

It’s important to point out here that Kimmel’s show is only 30 minutes, while Colbert and Fallon go for an hour. (ABC’s “Nightline” follows his show.) Not only is it harder in general to sustain an audience over an hour than it is over 30 minutes, the later shows run, the more viewers bow out and go to bed.

Here’s another thing that typically works in Kimmel’s favor: The NBA Finals serve up a pretty terrific boost to ABC over four-to-seven nights in June. The hoops championship lead-in helped out in 2019, but it doesn’t exist this year.

That fact makes Kimmel’s initial summer 2020 advancement (in positioning, at least) all the more impressive. The ABC series has crept above NBC’s “Tonight Show” in the early goings.

So far this summer, from May 27 to June 21, the at-home versions of “The Late Show,” “The Tonight Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” rank like this in the key demo:

  1. Colbert: 0.34 rating
  2. Kimmel: 0.32
  3. Fallon: 0.31

And in total viewers:

  1. Colbert: 3.00 million
  2. Kimmel: 2.08 million
  3. Fallon: 1.67 million

Yes, Fallon is looking up at the competition as the suddenly second-place Kimmel prepares to put his feet up.

Tony Maglio

Tony Maglio

TV Editor • [email protected] • Twitter: @tonymaglio


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