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Stephen Colbert Scores First ‘Late Show’ Ratings Win Over ‘Tonight Show’ in 24 Years

Kimmel remains a pretty distant third for the 2018-19 TV season

Stephen Colbert has brought the TV ratings crown back to CBS after more than two decades. “The Late Show” host scored the first season-long win among adults 18-49 in 24 years, just barely edging Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” on NBC.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC finished third in the key demo, as well as in total viewers.

In terms of total viewersy, Colbert separated himself by Fallon by a pretty wide margin, claiming his third-straight victory there. Below are the Nielsen averages through May 19, 2019.

Adults 18-49 Ratings

  1. “Late Show”: 0.52
  2. “Tonight Show”: 0.51
  3. “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.38

All three of broadcast’s main late-night shows saw their ratings decline double digits from the previous season. Fallon’s drop was the harshest at 22%, while Jimmy Kimmel fell by 18%. Colbert’s key-demo average slipped just 12% year over year.

Total Viewers

  1. “Late Show”: 3.766 million
  2. “Tonight Show”: 2.429 million
  3. “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 2.035 million

In total viewers, Kimmel fell the most on a percentage basis, dropping 10% versus the 2017-18 season. Fallon declined 9% and Colbert dipped 2%.

The last time “The Late Show” won the traditional Nielsen season in the key demo was the 1994-1995 season, which was early into David Letterman’s run.

On the positive side for NBC, Seth Meyers is still beating CBS’ James Corden (and ABC’s “Nightline”) later into the evening. Plus, there’s this.

It’s worth pointing out here that NBC (publicly) focuses on the 52-week September-to-September season. The network’s strong summer primetime programming pretty much always boosts late-night viewership in the warmest months, though the late-night day part could certainly be a different story this time around.