Jay Leno on a roll as 'Tonight' time dwindles

Averaged 5.3 million viewers for week ending Dec. 5

NEW YORK -- He's headed to 10 p.m. next fall, but NBC is savoring Jay Leno's late-night performance in the fewer than 160 episodes of "The Tonight Show" he has left.

The week before NBC announced that Leno would move to primetime, "Tonight" brought in its biggest audience since February. The show averaged 5.3 million viewers for the week ending Dec. 5, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. Late-night ratings are a week behind, so the ratings from last week won't be known until Thursday.

But that 5.3 million viewers was the best viewership for a week since Feb. 11-15, when Leno's writers returned from the strike. He averaged a 1.4 rating in adults 18-49, the best since April 28.

"Tonight" was ahead of its competitors by a wide margin; CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" was in repeats and drew 4.2 million viewers and 1.0/4, while ABC's "Nightline" garnered 4 million and a 1.1/4. Two of the 12:35 a.m. shows were in repeats; NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (1.9 million, 0.7/4 in repeats) beat ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (1.8 million, 0.6/3, originals) and CBS' "Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" (1.8 million, 0.5/3, repeats).
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