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Jimmy, Steven, Seth: Who Will Be King of Late Night?

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has quickly become the late night program to beat. Yet this success could be only momentary. Fallon will face some stiff competition in 2015 when Stephen Colbert will take over for David Letterman. Not to be discounted is NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers which has also earned solid ratings. 

Fallon’s Tonight Show has aired on NBC since February 17, 2014. His debut episode scored 11.3 million watchers in the U.S with a 3.8 rating for adults in the coveted 18-49 demographic. This equated to the second most viewers ever for a Tonight Show episode. With entertainment access like XFINITY On Demand, you can catch funny guest moments, the show’s house band The Roots, as well as Fallon’s right hand man Steve Higgins. It airs at 11:34 ET/PT. Most of the show’s success is due to Fallon’s “nice guy” style combined with his fantastic sense of humor. Fallon’s rise to fame included a very successful run as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

Late Night with Seth Meyers is shown at 12:37 ET on NBC. It has aired since February 24, 2014 and has had a nice run over the past four months. Meyers is a comedian, actor and former writer for Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. Meyers’ popular recurring sketches include “Seth’s Story”, “Fred Talks”, “Venn Diagrams” and “Bad Men.” The show has earned better than expected ratings but critical reviews have been mixed.

Stephen Colbert is set to host the Late Show beginning in 2015. The Late Show airs at 11:35 ET. It will still be called the Late Show when David Letterman retires. Colbert’s claim to fame has been his uber-successful show on Comedy Central called, The Colbert Report.

Colbert earned this show after serving as a highly popular featured reporter on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Colbert reportedly has a five-year contract. There is no designated location for the next version of the Late Show but it has been reported that Los Angeles, New York City and New Orleans are vying to host the program.

It is quite clear that late night audiences currently prefer Jimmy Fallon to other hosts. According to recent Nielsen ratings for a single week, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earned 4.26 million viewers to Jimmy Kimmel Live‘s 2.83 million on ABC and David Letterman’s 2.78 million on CBS. Fallon kept almost every single audience member (99% of the previous week’s demo) and was up 81% compared to the same week last year when Leno was hosting and was No. 1. Many industry experts find it a bit surprising that Fallon has better ratings compared to an industry stalwart like Conan O’Brien. For the week’s period of ratings referenced above, Fallon’s overall crowd [was] about 569,000 viewers ahead of Conan’s.

During the week of May 26 – May 30, 2014, Fallon did especially well, dominating the late-night week, generating “Tonight’s” highest 18-49 rating for a week of encores in three years. For the week, Fallon topped the 18-49 averages of the ABC and CBS competition combined. In the adult demographic of those aged 18 to 49, Fallon averaged a 0.97…to beat the 0.96 for the combined competition of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (0.52) and CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman. It is worth noting that Fallon debuted on February 17th so there is still a chance that his buzz will fade with time.

Late Night with Seth Meyers starts an hour later than David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel yet still won the ratings battle with one of those shows in the last week in May. Late Night with Seth Meyers beat out the Late Show with David Letterman and finished within 0.04 of a point of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

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