Jay Leno‘s Tonight Show swan song churned up the franchise’s biggest weekly crowd since the week of NBC’s Cheers finale in ’93. Meanwhile, his replacement, Jimmy Fallon wrapped his Late Night hosting gig with that show’s biggest weekly haul since it followed Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show farewell, in May of ’92.
Leno’s actual Thursday night finale last week clocked the biggest crowd for an individual Tonight show broadcast since Jerry Seinfeld turned up after his primetime hit’s so-long episode, on May 14, 1998.
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno averaged a 1.9 rating and 8.289 million viewers in its final week. That’s the top Tonight total-viewer average since the show snagged 9.08 million viewers the week of NBC’s Cheers finale — the week of May 17, 1993. In the demo, it was Tonight Show‘s best week since Conan O’Brien‘s dramatic final week hosting original episodes of the late-night franchise. Leno went out with Tonight’s biggest percentage margins ever over CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman (3.0 million viewers, 0.6 demo rating) and over the 11:35 PM edition of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live (2.5 million, 0.7 demo rating) in both metrics.
Following primetime Sochi Olympics coverage, the Thursday finale of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno delivered 14.637 million viewers and a 3.8 demo rating in “live plus same day” official nationals from Nielsen Media Research. That’s the show’s biggest crowd for a single telecast in more than 15 years — since Seinfeld showed up after his show called it a day earlier in the evening, on May 14, 1998. In the demo, it was Tonight’s biggest indivdual haul since O’Brien’s Tonight bow-out clocked a 4.4 demo rating on Friday, January 19, 2010.
Meanwhile, the last week of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, featuring “Best Of” installments on Monday through Wednesday, and a 12:05-1:05 AM ET Friday finale following primetime coverage of the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony, generated a 1.3 demo rating and 4.2 million viewers. That’s Late Night’s best weekly overall crowd since the week of May 18, 1992 — Johnny Carson’s finale Tonight Show week, when Late Night, then hosted by David Letterman, averaged 5.519 million viewers.
In the demo it was Fallon’s best week ever, and the late night franchise’s best since the week of January 24, 2005, during which NBC broadcast Late Night With Conan O’Brien repeats that followed a highly rated Tonight Show tribute to Carson.
Friday’s finale of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, following NBC’s primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, delivered a 2.2 demo rating and 6.601 million viewers overall in official nationals. In total viewers, it was the top result for the franchise since the June 25, 1993 finale of Letterman’s gig as host. In 18-49, it was Fallon’s second-best telecast ever — behind only his post-Super Bowl broadcast on Sunday, February 5, 2004 and, if you’re looking at regularly scheduled episodes only, the best in the demo since that Friends finale night (2.7 rating).
Versus the same week last year, Leno and Fallon were both up by triple-digit percentages in nearly every key ratings measure and delivered bigger audiences than their ABC and CBS time-period rivals in every key ratings category.