The late night dynamic has never been the same since the NBC fiasco that was The Jay Leno Show. When the talk show host returned to The Tonight Show his ratings were noticeably down, and they never completely recovered. Fast forward two years from that experience, and we see that Jimmy Kimmel Live has beaten the Leno-hosted program for the first time in its nine-year history.
The ratings bump can be attributed to a variety of factors, but most noticeably it has been ABC’s continued efforts to keep Jimmy Kimmel in the spotlight over the years that lead to this day. Not only does he host the network’s pre-game shows for the NBA finals, but also an annual Academy Awards special and various non-network affiliated events. Kimmel actually hosted a well-received roast of President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner just days before this late night coup. These little things help a series grow through the years, and it should be recognized that the sum of these events helped bring about today’s news.
While we certainly do not expect this to hold, it would appear that the once untouchable Mr. Leno is now someone who can be beat on a regular basis in the absence of special guest appearances. The night in question was Thursday, May 10th and to be clear about it, NBC still holds the sexy (and meaningless) title of most-watched late night broadcast. Unfortunately for the peacock network though, all that matters to advertisers nowadays is the 18-49 demographic which is the group that Kimmel won over.
In terms of viewership, it should be noted that Jimmy Kimmel Live is still ranked third in the genre behind Leno and Letterman. That is not to say that attracting a large audience is not the show’s strong suit as it is also worth mentioning that the late night program is currently on pace to have its most-watched season in five years.