The debut of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" generated strong sampling at a special midnight start time following late local news and NBC's coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Fallon's "Tonight" debut Monday night averaged a 3.8 rating in adults 18-49, and 11.314 million viewers overall, according to fast-official "live plus same day" ratings from Nielsen Media Research. These are the top results to date for a Fallon-hosted late-night talk-show hour.
The 11.314 million is up 71 percent or 4.7 million persons versus the 6.601 million for the Friday, Feb. 7, finale of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," which aired at 12:05 a.m. following primetime Olympics coverage. That was Fallon's previous high for a late-night talk-show hour.
The 11.314 million is also the second-biggest audience for "Tonight" since May 29, 2009 (11.901 million, for Leno's last telecast before Conan O'Brien took over as host), trailing over that span only the Thursday, Feb. 6, finale of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (14.637 million for an 11:35 p.m. telecast, which also followed primetime Olympics coverage).
Monday's Fallon debut on "Tonight" delivered more viewers than all but two of last week's primetime non-Olympic programs on ABC, CBS and FOX (for the week of Feb. 10-16, behind only CBS's Thursday encore of "The Big Bang Theory," 11.8 million; and FOX's Wednesday "American Idol," 11.7 million).
In adults 18-49, Monday night's 3.8 rating ties the Feb. 6 Leno finale as the top "Tonight" since Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 (4.4 for Conan O'Brien's final "Tonight Show"), and is the highest-rated Monday telecast of "Tonight" since Jan. 24, 2005 (tribute to Johnny Carson, 4.8). Versus Fallon's Feb. 7 "Late Night" finale, Monday's "Tonight" debut is up 73 percent (3.8 vs. 2.2)
The 3.8 rating ranks ahead of every primetime non-Olympic program on ABC, CBS and FOX last week, 12 percent ahead of the week's highest primetime non-Olympic rating on those networks, 3.4 for Wednesday's "American Idol."
The top 10 highest-rated local markets for Fallon's "Tonight" debut were: Denver, St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle-Tacoma, Houston and Orlando-Daytona Beach.
The Feb. 17 "Tonight" telecast featured Will Smith, musical guest U2, and numerous additional guest appearances.