TV Ratings: Late-Night Numbers Fall to Start Season

The Late Show Splits -Jimmy Fallon - Stephen Colbert- Jimmy Kimmel - H 2019
Andrew Lipovsky/NBC; Scott Kowalchyk/CBS; Randy Holmes/ABC

The start of the 2019-20 for TV season has seen a couple of trends continue in late night — for good and ill.

First, the bad news: Like most of the primetime shows that lead into them, same-day ratings for network late-night shows have largely fallen.

Through two weeks, NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, CBS' Late Show With Stephen Colbert and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! are averaging a combined 1.05 rating among adults 18-49 and 6.76 million viewers. That's down from a combined 1.31 in the 18-49 demo and 7.28 million viewers at the same time a year ago, declines of 20 percent in the demo and 7 percent in viewers.

NBC's Late Night With Seth Meyers and CBS' The Late Late Show With James Corden have also dropped, from a combined 0.53 and 2.62 million viewers through two weeks in fall 2018 to 0.4 (-24.5 percent) and 2.32 million (11.5 percent) this year.

On the plus side, all three 11:35 p.m. shows had better 18-49 numbers in the week of Sept. 30 than they did the previous week, with The Tonight Show and The Late Show also growing in total viewers. Late Night, The Late Late Show and NBC's A Little Late With Lilly Singh also improved their total audiences, and the two NBC shows ticked up in adults 18-49 as well.  

The two-week averages don't have any delayed viewing factored in, so those numbers will inevitably rise: Indeed, per CBS, The Late Show added about 650,000 viewers with three days of catch-up, bringing its total to 3.91 million. 

Relative to one another, however, the late-night shows are in pretty much the same position as they were this time last year. Aided by a post-NFL Sunday show on Oct. 6, The Tonight Show currently leads the season rankings in adults 18-49 with a 0.38 same-day average (down 22.5 percent) to The Late Show's 0.35 (-22 percent) and Jimmy Kimmel Live!'s 0.32 (-13.5 percent). 

The Late Show, meanwhile, has a sizable lead in total viewers, averaging 3.11 million (about even with last fall's 3.16 million) to 1.84 million for The Tonight Show (down from 2.24 million) and 1.81 million for Jimmy Kimmel Live! (off slightly from 1.88 million). Colbert's Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 installments had the largest three-day audiences (4.47 million and 4.6 million) on their respective nights in more than a year.

At 12:35 a.m., Corden's Late Late Show has drafted off Colbert to move ahead of Late Night: It is averaging 1.2 million same-day viewers to 1.12 million for Late Night. Late Night still holds a slim lead in adults 18-49 at 0.22 to 0.18 for Corden's show.

A Little Late With Lilly Singh is averaging 666,000 viewers and a 0.16 in adults 18-49, a little behind predecessor Last Call's on-air numbers from a year ago (780,000, 0.19). 

CBS and NBC are also playing up digital numbers for their late-night shows. NBC says Tonight clips gathered 66 million YouTube views in the week of Sept. 30 — its best mark of 2019 — while CBS notes Colbert's monologues from the first two weeks of the season have more than 40 million views on the video site. (YouTube counts a "view" if someone has watched a video for at least 30 seconds.)

A Little Late, meanwhile, has drawn 17 million views since its Sept. 16 launch and stands at 319,000 subscribers as of publication time. NBC says the show's Instagram account is adding followers at a rate of 7,000 per day.