Jay Leno pulled out the gags on his first “Tonight Show” back, roping in Betty White, a wild Jamie Foxx and Olympian Lindsey Vonn, but he also pulled in some strong ratings.
According to early returns, Jay brought in a 5.4 household rating and a 14 percent audience, according to Nielsen. And, NBC announced that around 6.6 million people tuned in to see the funnyman’s return to late night.
By comparison, Conan’s first time behind the desk, on June 1, 2009, took in a 7.1 rating and a 17 Nielsen audience share, which translated to 9.2 million viewers watching his debut. Leno’s final “Tonight Show,” back in May 2009, beat them all, drawing in an 8.8 rating and a 20 share, translating to more than 12 million viewers. Conan’s final “Tonight Show” drew 10 million viewers.
But Conan’s early lead didn’t last. Viewer results released on July 16 showed that Conan’s run behind the “Tonight Show” desk led to a slip in the ratings (the show had led during Leno’s run), forcing the show into second, behind “The Late Show With David Letterman” by – at first – around 800,000 viewers. However, audience-wise, younger people tuned in to watch Conan. According to reports, Conan’s audience was more than 10 years younger than those watching Letterman.
When “The Jay Leno Show” premiered in primetime, at 10 PM last fall, 18.4 million viewers watched. By contrast, that was around two-thirds more than viewed last night’s 11:35 PM “Tonight Show.”
But Monday’s return did beat Leno’s old rival, Letterman and the “Late Show,” which took in a 3.0 household rating and an 8 percent audience.
After all of the late night shuffles, time will tell if viewers stick with Leno in this time slot.