Ratings for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon cratered to a new low this week, as Monday’s episode drew just 947,000 total viewers. According to The Wrap, the former king of late night was dominated by his counterparts, including Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, who drew an estimated 2.03 million and 1.67 million total viewers, respectively, that evening.
The Monday, January 11 episode of The Tonight Show featured interviews with guests Bill Burr and Rashida Jones and a musical performance by Old Dominion. Fallon’s monologue that evening riffed on Trump’s permanent Twitter ban and Nickelodeon’s NFL broadcast, among other topics.
It’s worth noting that Nielsen’s early ratings estimate does not take delayed viewing or streaming into account. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon may not have drawn many live viewers, but it’s possible that thousands of fans tuned in via Hulu, Peacock, or NBC.com, data from which is not included in the 947,000 figure. Plus, many viewers (particularly younger viewers) prefer to stream individual clips on YouTube rather than watch the entire episode live, a habit that could be skewing the data, as well.
The Tonight Show ratings have been in free fall throughout the Trump era — Colbert first passed Fallon in the ratings in November 2018, and has remained on top ever since — but the drop off has been particularly steep amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wrap reports that The Tonight Show has had three record lows since August 2020, per Nielsen’s estimates: the first on August 18 (1 million total viewers), followed by another on September 22 (992,000 total viewers), and then Monday, January 11.
Nielsen has only kept ratings data since 1986, but during that time, The Tonight Show has always attracted more than a million viewers each night — until now. Of course, viewers in 2021 have more options than ever before, but the continued success of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live suggests that this is a Fallon-specific problem, as millions of Americans are clearly tuning in to other late night programs.
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