Kimmel vs. Leno vs. Letterman, Who Ya Got?

Categories: 1-Featured,Late Night TV Ratings

Written By

August 22nd, 2012

With yesterday's announcement that Jimmy Kimmel Live! would move to 11:35pm beginning on January 8, he'll for the first time go head to head with Letterman's Late Show and Leno's Tonight Show in exactly the same time period. Nightline will move its start time to 12:35pm, and get a 9pm Friday primetime hour as "consolation".

It's being painted as a bold move by ABC, but my guess is that, like everything, it's driven by the economics. It's very likely that Kimmel's show costs more than Nightline does, perhaps substantially more, and it doesn't make a lot of economic sense to put the more expensive show on later after the cheaper one. ABC has probably taken as long as it has to make the move because of the reported clout (or complaining, depending on who you read) that ABC News wielded to keep Nightline at 11:35.

But now that three broadcast networks (not to mention several competing cable shows that begin at 11) will all have comparably slotted talk shows at 11:35, who'll come out on top of the adults 18-49 ratings?

Here's some data for your handicapping pleasure:

2011-12 broadcast season to date (Sept-May):

  • Tonight Show 0.9 adults 18-49 rating
  • Late Show 0.8 adults 18-49 rating
  • Nightline 0.9 adults 18-49 rating
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live 0.5 adults 18-49 rating

May, 2012 sweeps period:

  • Tonight Show 0.8 adults 18-49 rating
  • Late Show 0.7 adults 18-49 rating
  • Nightline 0.9 adults 18-49 rating
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live 0.5 adults 18-49 rating

If you'd like to make things apples to apples, make your guess the ratings winner for the May, 2013 sweeps, since full season comparisons will be goofy.

Who ya' got?

  • Laurence Glavin

    Hey, c’mon…give full ratings, not just 18-49. In fact, among males, 18, 19 and 20-year olds are not adults.

  • joel

    A Kimmel victory would ultimately destroy both Leno and Letterman, forcing their networks to go younger in that time slot with Fallon and Ferguson.

  • Bill Gorman

    “Hey, c’mon…give full ratings”

    You mean the meaningless total viewership?

    Why would I bother with that?

  • Marc

    I believe Kimmel will pull more from Leno’s viewers than Letterman’s viewers. But will it be enough to put Letterman on top!?

  • RJ

    I think Leno will keep first, but Letterman will be third.

  • jRobnyc

    I think they have different fans,in the end Leno is more middle America therefore he wins.

  • AppleStinx

    Me got Kimmel.

  • Nick

    Leno will still come out on top. It isn’t because Kimmel starts at midnight that his ratings are lower. People just don’t like him or his show. If anything, this will bring a lot of audience to the Tonight Show who normally would have watched Nightline, especially the older crowd. In that time period, ABC is going to go from 3.5-4 million to 2-2.5 million, which means more audience to spread out between Leno and Letterman.

  • cc

    When Nightline is already beating both Leno and Letterman, why move it to put Kimmel in the mix with everyone else? I’ll continue to watch Friends reruns, they’re funnier then all these so-called comedians put together.

  • Mike

    Could be that you could have three shows with a demo rating of .3 or .4.

    Leno flirted with the 3 million mark this summer as I predicted earlier…hard to imagine now that he doesn’t go below that. Letterman is already there sometimes.

  • Bill Gorman

    “When Nightline is already beating both Leno and Letterman”

    The power of ABC Late Night PR is strong in this one…

    Nightline runs from 11:35-12:00, and ABC PR likes to apples/oranges compare it to those shows that run from 11:35-12:35. In the 25 minutes that the shows currently overlap, my guess is that Nightline would have finished 3rd, but I cannot be certain.

    Regardless, ABC Late Night PR loses its time period imbalance advantage beginning on January 8. Harder work ahead for them!

  • Bill Gorman

    @AppleStinx, perhaps the title requires PTI-fanhood to fully appreciate. ;)

  • Justin

    Leno. End of Story.

  • Evan

    Kimmel all day long. How in the hell is Leno leading the poll? He’s so bad it actually hurts. I think I found the old/unfunny person website poll. Bye!

  • Fake Me Out

    1.1 Leno
    0.9 Letterman
    0.6 Kimmel
    DNF Nightline (victim of a crash ‘n burn if left @ 12:35)

    2.6 Letterman
    DNF Leno
    DNF Kimmel
    DNF Nightline

    The prediction is based on most viewers stick around for network latenight and the numbers just get juggled … a situation I would not be willing to put cash money on … I think it’s possible latenight could lose 0.1 or 0.2 more than it’s already bleeding out each year so Leno & Letterman could be 0.1 lower. I know we’ll never see them, but I would love to see the stats on where the 0.4 demo Nightline viewers go each night? Leno? Letterman? Cable? Bed?


  • AppleStinx

    @Bill Gorman

    Thanks for the Wikipedia link. I’m looking forward to seeing “same time tomorrow, knuckleheads” used sometime. :grin:

  • Austin

    Leno is way more entertaining and fun then Lettermen. The only reason he gets viewers is because it’s on CBS. Jimmy Kimmel should beat Lettermen. :P

  • GARebelman

    Jay will win. Letterman is a toss up and Kimmel always lost a good chunk out of the half hour of Nightline so I am not sure where he will skew. People should predict on ratings trends not “who there favorite is”

  • Sammie

    Don’t care. I’ll be watching Colbert.

  • Jiji Moran

    Jimmy Kimmel has way better funny material than both Letterman and Leno, though Leno is also really good. I used to like Jimmy Fallon, but his standup time has grown shorter and shorter, and the jokes ain’t that funny as they used to be. I Love Jimmy Fallon and hope that his writing staff gives him better material to chew on. Letterman is just “out there” and he comes across as inconsiderate, petulant, and flatulent.

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