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TV Ratings: Jay Leno Rises After Exit News, but Colbert Tops 'Tonight' for First Quarter

UPDATED: The Comedy Central host, frequently besting "The Tonight Show" in the key demo, tops his broadcast competition for a full quarter for the first time ever -- while Leno and Jimmy Fallon see gains the night of NBC's big announcement.

The Colbert Report The Tonight Show Split - H 2013
Scott Gries/Comedy Central; Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Stephen Colbert and Jay Leno

Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, long a destination for advertiser-friendly young adults, managed to sustain a stronger showing in the key adults 18-49 demographic than The Tonight Show for a full quarter for the first time ever.

News of the feat comes just a day after NBC officially announced plans for Jimmy Fallon to take over for Tonight host Jay Leno in spring 2014.

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As The Hollywood Reporter noted in a recent Leno cover story, Stephen Colbert's year-to-date average among adults 18-49 had been leading Leno, falling shy of only lead-in and perennial victor The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in the ratings. All told, Colbert Report averaged 1.11 million adults 18-49 for the first three months of 2013, topping Leno (1.04 million) by 67,000 viewers. Those ratings come courtesy of Nielsen's most current returns for just original outings. Including encores, Tonight maintains a lead, 1.018 million over Colbert's 979,000.

Jon Stewart led all late-night talkers with an average 1.41 million adults 18-49.

Elsewhere on the broadcast networks, Jimmy Kimmel Live! saw his first quarter at the 11:35 p.m. time slot pull 956,000 adults 18-49 -- not far south of Leno. Jimmy Kimmel topped Late Show With David Letterman (897,000) by 59,000. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon remained in sixth place with 718,000 adults 18-49.

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Both Leno and Fallon performed especially well Wednesday night. Just hours after news of the planned transition for The Tonight Show, Leno enjoyed his best Wednesday since Jan. 20.

The episode brought a 2.9 rating among metered-market households, earning a 0.9 rating with adults 18-49 in the 25 markets with Local People Meters. Week-to-week, Leno was up nearly 30 percent in the younger demo.

Later, on Fallon, the future Tonight host was also up in both measures -- though not by as much. He saw a 20 percent improvement in adults 18-49, giving Late Night its best Wednesday in three months.