THR's 35 Most Powerful People in Media
When he took over NBC’S Late Night in 2009, executives asked Fallon, 37, if “the Internet” would factor into his new talk show. “That doesn’t make any sense,” he recalls thinking. “It wasn’t even a question.”
The show was the first late-nighter to register its own website outside a network umbrella and to switch from tape to digital. The result? Instant online traction for “The History of Rap” with friend Justin Timberlake, and R&B duets with Gwyneth Paltrow and Fallon’s impressions of Robert Pattinson, David Bowie and Neil Young going viral. Even the 12:35 a.m. airtime of his show — which posts annual growth and easily tops direct competitors Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson, averaging nearly 2 million viewers this season — works in Fallon’s favor for web-savvy younger viewers. “People have to go to sleep at some point, so you can see it all the next day online,” he says. “It’s like the show airs twice.”
Another thing Fallon gets right is music. A combination of booker Jonathan Cohen’s efforts, Fallon’s whims (“What’s Adam Ant doing? Can we get Christopher Cross?”) and the host’s finds on song-identification app Shazam has Late Night breaking new music from Passion Pit to Lykke Li as well as boasting appearances from the old guard. Madonna and Bruce Springsteen (who appeared twice during a week devoted to his songs) recently chose Fallon as their only interview when promoting new releases. “I think we built the show toward the iPod generation,” says Fallon. “You don’t just have seven albums. You don’t have 20 CDs. You have 8,000 different songs.”
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