A Surprising Ranking Of The Late Night Talk Shows Based On Their Nielsen Ratings

The landscape in late night has shifted drastically since the departure of Jay Leno. Jimmy Fallon has ascended to the top, and these days, it’s not even close. Not only is The Tonight Show the highest rated late-night talk show, but it’s rating are so dominant that it’s pushed the ratings of Late Night with Seth Meyers ahead of The Late Show with David Letterman in the 18-49 demo. It’s no longer Dave vs. Jay. It’s Fallon, and then everyone one competing for number two, as The Tonight Show put up its best non-Olympics ratings in May than during any other month since 2009. Jimmy Fallon is so dominant that in the 18-49 demo that his ratings are double his next two competitors. It’s Fallon’s world now.

I was curious, however, about how everyone else fit in to the late-night landscape, including Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O’Brien. Here’s the late-night shows ranked by Nielsen ratings in the 18-49 demo (total viewers are in parenthesis):

1. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon — 1.28 (3.9 million viewers)

2. The Jimmy Kimmel Show — .64 (2.7 million)

3. Late Night with Seth Meyers — .64 (1.6 million)

4. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart — .56 (1.4 million)

5. The Late Show with David Letterman .47 (2.49 million)

6. The Colbert Report — .45 (1.1 million)

7. Nightline — .41 (1.67 million)

8. Last Call with Carson Daly — .35 (878,000)

9. Conan — .34 (734,000)

10. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson — .30 (1.2 million)

The ratings give us a clearer picture not only of why Letterman decided to step down, but why Craig Ferguson — who is in dead last place, behind even Carson Daly in the 18-49 demo — also decided to vacate. Stephen Colbert was obviously a great hire for CBS, but I seriously doubt that The Late Show will threaten The Tonight Show’s dominance. I don’t think the gap between number one and number two has ever been this dominant. At this point, Jimmy Fallon has better ratings than any of NBC’s Thursday night sitcoms this year. And if CBS wants to turn it around in the 12:30 slot, they’re going to need a game-changing host, and they’d be smart to hire a woman, if only because she’d be a welcome change to the vast line-up of middle-aged white men.

Also? Poor Conan. He may be next-to-last in the 18-49 demo, but in overall viewers, the guy who once hosted The Tonight Show is dead last, again behind even Carson Daly.

To put it all in perspective, however, I should also note that Family Guy reruns on Adult Swim would place number two, behind only The Tonight Show, with a .92 in the 18-49 demo.

Ratings Data: TVBytheNumbers