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?

  • sara taylor glass

    Hi Bill,

    Are these ratings based on Live + SD, Live + 7 or Most Current? Also how do these late shows compare based on C3, the metric that matters most to advertisers? Thanks.

  • sara taylor glass

    How do these shows perform based on C3, the metric that advertisers care about? thanks.

  • Dan S

    Letterman will be the biggest loser in this showdown. I voted for Kimmel to win the 18-49 demo & it doesn’t hurt that ABC has a stronger primetime lineup than NBC either giving Leno a strong challenge. Be curious to see how Nightline fares at 12:35am.

  • A is Aria

    All three of them are stale! Lopez Tonight was awesome.

  • PHIL

    This is a great move by ABC, they should win that time period and if you look at Kimmel’s NBA finals specials his ratings are very impressive. When it comes to ad dollars have Nightline @11:35 makes no sense because it only brings in 50m a year whereas, Tonight Show makes over 100m.

  • Bill Gorman

    “Are these ratings based on Live + SD, Live + 7 or Most Current?”

    The ones in the post, like all season/period averages we see are “Most Current”. For the Season to Date numbers those are nearly 100% Live+7, for the May sweeps they are 1/2 Live+7 and 1/2 Live+Same Day.

    “Also how do these late shows compare based on C3, the metric that matters most to advertisers? Thanks.”

    C3 ratings are virtually never seen in public, but it’s reasonable based on the handful of times we have seen them, to figure that shows with higher program ratings (like those above) also have higher C3 ratings.

  • herpderp

    Craig Ferguson is better than all of them.

  • Doug

    Kimmell will probably see an increase given that it is a more high-profile timeslot, and he’s not struggling to grab viewers who are already into Leno and/or Letterman. That was TBS’s logic for Conan at 11, right? Get them 35 minutes early?

    I don’t think that the ratings for a moved Nightline really matter that much. ABC already has the news infrastructure, so most ad revenue could be seen as profit anyway. Meaning that, whether they air Nightline or not, that infrastructure is still there, so you might as well get something out of it.

  • Mike

    kimmel is annoying and letterman is boring… and fallon should switch places with leno

  • Anonymous

    What about Craig Ferguson? I don’t watch these night shows but I’ve watched at least one of each and I think Ferguson is the funnies and most interesting host.

  • pirate1303

    All of them are lame compared to Colbert. He is a genius and his writers are the best on tv-

  • pirate1303

    All of them are lame compared to Colbert-

  • rick

    Kimmel has some of the best topical monologues thanks to his use of actual topical video. He suffers when heads off into bits involving his staff.

    Leno usually has a few decent jokes and a lot of filler. He does best with headlines and Jaywalking.

    Letterman is at his best being his cranky self. He seems much more comfortable being himself than any others. It’s not always funny though.

    Fallon does best behind his desk or doing musical parodies. The monologue is not his forte

    Like Letterman, Ferguson is sort of out there, but in a more manic way. Like Letterman he can come across as very real and open, but his act is not as accessible as most others.

  • Tom

    Kimmel has a crisp, sharp and very funny monolouge. He too is quick witted.

    Letterman is also quick witted. His video segments are very well produced. I am a huge Letterman fan, but have to admit, I do not like his political bashing night after night. Some of his stuff is getting old and repititive.

    Leno, to me is simply not funny. His video bits are lame. Not well editied, poor graphics. His new band is really good.

  • Justin

    Letterman just seems tired. His whole monologue is like… um people… you know… that thing. Watch this.

    Kimmel never seemed that good to me personally, and If he moves an hour earlier, He’ll probably be watered down.

    Leno either needs a new band or a new bandleader. Ricky is too held back and rarely if ever interacts with Leno during the monologue, Ruining the 2 man team (Letterman and Paul S., Fallon and Higgens/Roots, Fergs and GP)

  • Danny

    Every once in a while Letterman’s show is still genius. Last week’s Top Ten with Lionel Richie, and lastnight’s gag with the tequila, were terrific. But much of the time his show is just nothing.

    Leno is absolutely unwatchable…from the phony high fives, to the painfully predictable monologue, to the sketches, which should count as torture.

    I think the younger fans, as well as the celebs, will flock to Kimmel first, then Conan. Leno will get the leftovers.

  • Samunto

    The viewing habits of late night pretty much stay the same. People will still tune in to the comfort food that is Leno. ABC will clearly do much to get some high profile guests/stunts to up the show but only after a long time will we be able to see the difference. But honestly look at how Conan has almost become forgotten now that he’s on TBS. He has no buzz at all and tiny ratings.

    I hope that now Networks won’t be forbidding their stars to appear on their rivals’ late night shows. That would be very silly.

  • b.d.

    Unfortunately, Kimmel will probably finish third despite being the only one I’d watch. I could almost watch Letterman even though he has become so pompous and even though the Top Ten List was tired ten years ago, but the deal breaker for me is Paul Shaffer, who makes the show unwatchable. Leno is just not watchable, period. Now if, as a previous poster suggested, Leno and Letterman moved on and Fallon and Ferguson were moved into that slot, that would pose a problem for me as all 3 shows in the time slot would be great!


    I’ll be watching Stewert/Colbert combo, I only tune in when they are in reruns.

  • SG

    Kimmel. Finally the move to 11:35!

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures