TV Ratings: Jay Leno Rises After Exit News, But Colbert Tops 'Tonight' for First Quarter

Michael O'Connell

The Colbert Report, long a destination for the young, advertiser-friendly adults, managed to sustain a stronger showing in the key adults 18-49 demographic than The Tonight Show for a full quarter for the first time ever.

News of the of feat comes just a day after NBC officially announced plans for Jimmy Fallon to take over for Tonight host Jay Leno in spring 2014.

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As The Hollywood Reporter noted in a recent Jay Leno cover story, Stephen Colbert's year-to-date average among adults 18-49 had been leading Leno, falling shy of only lead-in and perennial victor The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in the ratings. All told, Colbert averaged 1.107 million adults 18-49 for the first three months of 2013, topping Leno (1.04 million) by 607,000 viewers.

Jon Stewart led all late night talkers with an average 1.408 million adults 18-49.

Elsewhere on the broadcast networks, Jimmy Kimmel Live saw his first quarter at the 11:35 time slot pull 956,000 adults 18-49 -- not far south of Leno. Jimmy Kimmel topped The Late Show With David Letterman (897,000) by 59,000. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon remained in sixth place with 718,000 adults 18-49.

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Both Leno and Fallon performed especially well on Wednesday night. Just hours after news of the planned transition for The Tonight Show, Leno enjoyed his best Wednesday since January 20.

The episode brought a 2.9 rating among metered market households, earning a 0.9 rating with adults 18-49 in the 25 markets with Local People Meters. Week-to-week, Leno was up nearly 30 percent in the younger demo.

Later, on Fallon, the future Tonight host was also also up in both measures -- though not by as much. He saw a 20 percent improvement in adults 18-49, giving Late Night its best Wednesday in three months.