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?

  • JB

    Kimmel will attract Leno’s audience. Like Leno, his monologues are simple (although much edgier) – he delivers a joke or shows a clip and it’s self-explanatory. Those viewers don’t care about personality or quirks in their hosts, they just want an hour of simple entertainment…which is where Leno and Kimmel are similar.

  • Jiji Moran

    Ferguson may be funny, though I’ve never watched more than two minutes at a time. I just don’t understand a thing he says. Too thick of a Brittish accent, for me.

  • Don

    1) Leno – Hilarious
    2) Kimmel – Funny
    3) Lettermen – so so

  • Chuck Collins

    I say bring back the old ABC Late Night lineup and show reruns of “THE LOVE BOAT” and “FANTASY ISLAND” instead. I bet it would get at least a 0.5 like Kimmel does now and it wouldn’t cost them a thing.

  • Mario

    Leno will win! Leno is the best pure comedian among the 3!

  • Reality

    Letterman has driven so many viewers away with his nonstop Obama cheerleading and Jon Stewart guest list, it’s surprising his ratings haven’t been fully Oprahed already.

  • Bill

    Too bad the best late show of all takes the hit.

    ABC must be looking at Kimmel’s development and his age (44). For now, he probably won’t win the time slot, but he should be competitive, and bring in more profit than Nightline. And time passes. Leno is 62 and Letterman is 65——both should step down any time, certainly before Kimmel is 50. That will leave Kimmel as the only established host in the time slot, and with a lot of good years ahead.

  • Danny

    I knew Mario would show up here.

    He’s right…Leno is the most pure commodian here. His stolen comedy should be in the toilet.

    Does anybody think that ultra-corporate shill named Jay Leno is funny?

  • Ike

    Last night’s ratings put the A18-49 for Nightline at 0.8/4 and Kimmel at only 0.5/3. On the surface, that makes this move look unwise, but maybe the Nightline ratings are top-heavy with lots of 49-year-olds, like CBS procedurals? Is Kimmel killing it in men 18-34 or something? Maybe the second half of Kimmel’s show brings his average way down as people tuen out and fall asleep. @Bill@10:27 probably makes good points regarding the ages of the hosts and ABC looking to the future.

    @Bill — that pathetic hack Leno will never step down. He’ll die there.

    His sense of humor died a long time ago, though. I tuned in once in 2009 or so, and he was still telling Monica Lewinski jokes. It was a new episode. Enough said.

    Anyway, I’ll be with the commenters who are watching Stephen Colbert, who is funnier, wittier, and sharper than all three of these over-the-air talk show guys put together. His satire is the gold standard for me.

  • Cal Worthington

    Kimmel’s meager rating is a result of a Nightline lead-in. Without Nightline to open the night he is in trouble. Rememeber 12:30 Conan vs 11:30 Conan? There is no ratings bump in a slightly earlier timeslot and without a lead-in you’re hoping people will tune it to see Kimmel, not stick around and check him out after the news. Big Difference. This is a major, potentially fatal mistake. C-O-N-A-N

  • Bill Gorman

    “Last night’s ratings put the A18-49 for Nightline at 0.8/4 and Kimmel at only 0.5/3. On the surface, that makes this move look unwise, but maybe the Nightline ratings are top-heavy with lots of 49-year-olds, like CBS procedurals?”

    Those Nightline ratings are for 1135-1200. A viewer advantaged time period compared to all the other broadcast late night shows. Which all run later in time periods with fewer viewers.

    How ABC’s ratings for the 90 minute late night period will change once Kimmel moves is anybody’s guess, I don’t think that looking at current ratings for the ABC shows yields an automatic answer.

  • Mark

    I think Leno keeps his audience while Kimmel pulls some away from Letterman. However, I don’t see Kimmel rising to the top. Remember, there are those “cable shows” out there that appeal to a similar audience to Kimmel and that will hold him down.

  • Danny

    One thing that strikes me as a bit odd is that there seems to be some love for Jay Leno…although I was shocked at how anti-Leno comments were on the Internet after both his paycut and the Kimmel news…I have never met in my life one person who watches Jay Leno except my mother in law, and she quit because she says he’s boring now.

  • BrieK

    I can say that I will be switching from Leno to Kimmel and I suspect Letterman will take the biggest hit.
    1. LENO
    2. KIMMEL

  • Ralph Hahn

    @LawrenceGlavin: >>> …among males, 18, 19 and 20-year olds are not adults. <<< Lawrence, or is it Laurence…these days boys don't become men until they reach the age of 30. Ask any woman.

  • Ralph Hahn

    @BrieK: I agree with your prediction. Letterman is 65 now, next year, he’ll be 66. Letterman USED to do a lot of comedy bits. Now, if there are any outside taped bits, it’s the building’s janitor who does them. Ol’ Dave just sits on his a*s and promotes the Democrats all day long and STILL, in 2012, has Bush and Palin jokes in every monologue.

    Say goodnight, Dave. Let Craig Ferguson, the TRUE King of Late Night (the funniest one anyway) lay claim to the 11:35 slot.

  • Nate

    If network economics were different, Jimmy Fallon would have a great weekly variety program such as the old Carol Burnett Show. Jimmy is a great talent but his monologue delivery just doesn’t cut it for 11:35.

  • DJ

    I think it’s time for the monologues on all of these shows to go. All have unimaginative writers, and the jokes are the same. Leno’s the king of bland monologues, but the others on network are close behind. You can’t have five shows doing the same jokes.

  • Tony

    1. Leno
    2. Kimmel
    3. Letterman

  • Tony

    Is the 18-49 and total viewership the only rating numbers you have?

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