How Jimmy Fallon is winning the late night battle online

By Adam Flomenbaum 

3026676-inline-tngtpostbrooklynbridge020614Jimmy Fallon’s first week as ‘Tonight Show’ host brought in a nightly average of 8.5 million viewers for NBC, the best week for the late night show since 1993. Heading into the third week of the show, Fallon still has a strong lead over Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman, but Kimmel made a big jump on Monday with Toronto mayor Rob Ford as a guest.

According to Kontera, a company that measures Internet content and social media impressions, online consumption about Fallon increased 154% (comparing February 17-26 to February 7-16). Fallon’s lead is significant, as there was 167% more consumption around Fallon than his competitors. It is easy to attribute part of Fallon‘s ratings success to the 2014 Olympics lead-in he enjoyed, but online consumption is a different matter.

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Kontera also looked at online consumption patterns around late night hosts during the year leading up to the Fallon-Leno change (January 2013 – January 2014).  Fallon had the second highest volume of consumption around a talk show host – 31% less consumption than Jimmy Kimmel. Online consumption around  Kimmel has been rising steadily since Fallon’s debut, and so have his ratings.

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Both Kimmel and Fallon recognize the importance of producing content for their respective shows that can be easily shared online. Kimmel has seen tremendous success with asking fans to post videos to YouTube, while Fallon has the regular ‘Late Night Hashtags’ segment. Conspicuously absent from this conversation is David Letterman, who is apparently making an effort to having Jay Leno as a guest on his show. The contentious history between Letterman and Leno is well-documented, so an on-air reunion would provide Letterman with a big ratings boost. Still, this “get” might only help Letterman temporarily. Fallon and Kimmel, and their viral-minded content, will continue to drive the social conversation. Ultimately, this will keep them top-of-mind to viewers looking for late night options.