Jay Leno’s final appearance on “The Tonight Show” on NBC netted 14.64 million viewers on Thursday, according to Nielsen, which was “Tonight’s” biggest overall audience since May 14, 1998 (14.96 million – the night of the “Seinfeld” finale when Jerry Seinfeld appeared as a guest). Results among key adults 18-49 (3.8 rating) was the best for “Tonight” since Jan. 22, 2010, which was Conan O’Brien’s last night hosting the show. The 18-49 rating is also the highest for a Thursday “Tonight Show” telecast since March 19, 2009 (which featured President Barack Obama).
Comparably, the total audience tally was the fourth largest ever for a Jay Leno-hosted edition (behind 2.24 million for “Cheers” finale night on May 20, 1993; 16.1 million for Leno’s debut on May 25, 1992; and 15.0 million for “Seinfeld” finale night). This final night with Jay Leno increased by 283 percent from the season to-date average (3.82 million) heading into this week.
“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” followed Leno’s finale with 6.01 million viewers — its biggest audience since a special 11:56 p.m. ET telecast on Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 5, 2012 (6.09 million).
Marc Berman is the Editor in Chief for TV Media Insights, the online destination for television and media. Berman has appeared on camera for Extra, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, The CBS Evening News, CNN, and more; and his 2014 desk calendar, “Today in TV History,” is presently available.
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