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It was bound to happen eventually. The tight audience battle between Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon tipped back in NBC’s favor last week.
With an abbreviated average, on account of CBS excluding Thursday and Friday repeats, NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon averaged a slim 34,000 viewers more than CBS’ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert for the week. That’s the first time since the week of Jan. 30 — read: the Trump inauguration — that NBC has posted such an advantage. Late Show has won the total viewer race for the five months since, though by varying margins.
The victory for Tonight, however, was short-lived. Late Show‘s winning streak has also seen the CBS telecast widen the margin of victory with live-plus-3-day returns. (In short, more people catch up on Late Show with DVR and VOD, so that 34,000-viewer gap may evaporate.) And, sure enough, Colbert’s three-day average outpaced Fallon’s by nearly 250,000 viewers — with Late Show averaging 3.1 million viewers to 2.86 million.
What time-shifting cannot change is Tonight‘s continued dominance among adults 18-49. The latest week also marked the NBC show’s biggest demo win since January. Its average 0.68 rating in the key demo outperformed Late Show‘s 0.42 rating by 62 percent.
This week, both Fallon and Colbert have original episodes ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
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Thomas Brodie Sangster