TV Ratings: Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight' Premieres Strong, Ties Conan O'Brien's 2009 Debut

UPDATED: Ten days after signing off at his old show, the new face of NBC late night premieres at a special time with a handsome Olympic lead-in.
Lloyd Bishop/NBC
Jimmy Fallon

Here's Jimmy. The Tonight Show returned to the airwaves -- and New York City -- on Monday night with the first episode starring new host Jimmy Fallon.

Overnight returns give the episode a 7.1 rating among households, tying the launch of Conan O'Brien's Tonight tenure in 2009. That figure was also the second-highest Tonight Show overnights since May 29, 2009 (8.8), for Jay Leno’s last telecast before O’Brien took over as host.

Leno's last Tonight broadcast on Feb. 6, which pulled 14.6 million viewers in final ratings, averaged a 9.2 household rating.

STORY: Inside The Late-Night Ratings Battle

It goes without saying that Fallon's new Tonight Show launched under very unusual circumstances. Trying to capitalize on the big audience watching the lead-in Sochi Olympics, NBC aired the episode at midnight, not the 11:35 p.m. time slot that will be its regular home. (Local news has been delayed to accommodate Olympic overage.)

The new era of the Tonight Show begins with the series as the de facto champ in the broadcast networks' late-night ratings race. Leno passed the baton with season-to-date averages (4.1 million viewers, 1.0 rating adults 18-49) topping all of the competition.

Fallon's initial demo rating also bodes well. In the 25 markets with Local People Meters, The Tonight Show averaged a 3.4 rating with adults under 50. That's Fallon's biggest late-night showing to date.