As Jay Leno fights for his job, more people are opting to tune into the show that he’s expected to lose. The Tonight Show just hit a seven-week high in total viewers with 3.52 million (his best since the week of Jan. 28-Feb. 1) and a four-week high in the 18-49 demo with 982,000 viewers (his best since Feb. 18-22), according to Nielsen ratings. The ratings bump for the week of March 18-22 came as Leno began taking nightly jabs at his employers – like referring to them as snakes – as news hit that a succession plan was in the works to replace him with Jimmy Fallon.
As it now stands, Leno has outranked The Late Show with David Letterman among 18-49 viewers for the last 18 weeks in a row while topping Jimmy Kimmel Live for nine of their 11 head-to-head weeks. In total viewers, Leno has averaged more than the Late Show for 22 weeks in a row and Jimmy Kimmel Live for 11 of 11 weeks.
NBC has yet to confirm or comment on the succession plan, other than to say Fallon is getting a fancy new set in New York, where The Tonight Show is expected to move. Though plenty of industry watchers question whether it’s the right time to bump Leno, speculation continues that Fallon may start as early as February, after the network’s telecast of the Winter Olympics.
Leno continued his war of words against NBC on Wednesday, with this joke about the network’s Monday lineup. “The Voice and Revolution moved NBC into the No. 2 position. You know what that means? Between Easter and Passover, this is truly the season of miracles. We’re number two! We’re number two! And I’ve been saying that for the last week – NBC is a big No. 2. Haven’t I been saying that?”