Late-Night Show Ratings Grew Double Digits Without Live Studio Audiences

No crowd, no problem

Last Updated: March 17, 2020 @ 8:00 AM

Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel* could get used to this whole audience-free thing.

On Thursday, all three late-night hosts locked out their studio audiences but welcomed in larger crowds of TV viewers than usual. In the key demo, which consists of adults ages 18-49, Fallon’s “Tonight Show” grew by 34% and Colbert’s “Late Show” rose 31%.

We asterisked Kimmel above because “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” wasn’t actually hosted by its regular guy: Former South Bend, Ind., mayor and recent presidential wannabe Pete Buttigieg filled in as guest host last Thursday, giving ABC audiences two new reasons to check out the unique night. Call it a Buttigieg Bump, more people staying home, intrigue about no studio audience or a (likely) combination of all three, “JKL” jumped 30% in demo ratings from the previous Thursday evening.

In terms of total viewers, “The Tonight Show” on NBC added 33%, “The Late Show” on CBS tacked on 21% more and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” rose by 27%.

As if those weren’t enough boasts, we’ve got a few more. Fallon’s 0.43 rating was the highest for “The Tonight Show” on a non-NFL Thursday since Oct. 10, 2019, when Priyanka Chopra was a guest.

It was the most-watched non-NFL Thursday “Tonight Show” since June 27, 2019, which was a live show after a primetime Democratic debate.

How huge was Fallon’s audience-free episode? It led “Late Night With Seth Meyers” to its highest-rated Thursday telecast since Dec. 19. Here’s where we remind readers that Thursday’s “Late Night” was a rerun.

As for Colbert, he enjoyed his largest (TV) audience on any night since Jan. 14, a live episode featuring Mike Bloomberg and following a Democratic debate. Isolating only Thursdays, it was Colbert’s best delivery since Halloween 2019, when Nancy Pelosi was Stephen’s guest.

Here’s how the main late-night shows stacked up in the key demo:

  1. Fallon: 0.43
  2. Kimmel (Buttigieg): 0.39
  3. Colbert 0.38

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

And in total viewers:

  1. Colbert: 3.287 million
  2. Kimmel: 2.262 million
  3. Fallon: 2.184 million.