Jay Leno still sucks, ‘Tonight Show’ ratings are worse than ever


Remember the months and months of horrible douchebaggery between Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno and NBC? Recap: when Conan O’Brien took over The Tonight Show, his ratings kind of sucked (they just weren’t as good as Leno’s, back in the day), so NBC jury-rigged a scheme to get Leno back at the Tonight Show, effectively cancelling his horrible 10 p.m. weeknight show (which also sucked in the ratings). Chaos ensued. In the end, Conan went to TBS, Leno went back to Tonight, and Jimmy Fallon is now Leno’s “successor”. Weird.

Anyway, the whole thing started because NBC was terrified of their sucky ratings for both 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Local NBC affiliates were complaining, and something had to be done, for sure. But the solution might have been worse than the problem, because now Leno is tanking… kind of.

NBC might have summer’s most-watched show in “America’s Got Talent,” but the network’s late-night ratings aren’t so sunny. “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” is pulling a smaller number in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic than when Conan O’Brien hosted the show last year.

In fact, this summer is the lowest-rated “Tonight” on record, though such feats have become increasingly common on broadcast across the board.

Since the end of the broadcast season, Leno is averaging 3.8 million viewers and a 1.0 adults 18-49 rating. That’s a 12% improvement in total audience compared with O’Brien, though off 23% in the demo and down in both measurements compared with Leno’s performance two years ago. His percentages greatly improve if comparisons begin a few weeks deeper into the summer so “Tonight” is not facing O’Brien’s opening weeks hosting the show, though O’Brien is tops in the demo either way.

Even with the reduced rating, Leno is back to beating his top rival, CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” by a healthy 22% in both metrics. CBS touts that Letterman’s ratings are at least holding steady compared with last summer, when Letterman hit an all-time low of his own. Other late-night hosts have been showing stability too, with NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” CBS’ “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” maintaining their demo averages, and Fallon and Kimmel even sporting gains in total viewers.

Heading into the fall, NBC’s affiliates say that, if anything, they’re pleased about the schedule in general and late-night in particular. Last year, stations contended with the expected ratings decline of putting Leno at 10 p.m. and the uncertainty of O’Brien hosting “Tonight.”

Station managers are looking forward to having scripted dramas back in late primetime, which in turn should fuel audience momentum into late-night. There’s an expectation that it’s nearly impossible not to have a better story to tell advertisers in the fall, especially with NBC stocking up on dramas like high-concept series “The Event” and shows from top-shelf producers Dick Wolf (“Law & Order: Los Angeles”), Jerry Bruckheimer (“Chase”) and J.J. Abrams (“Undercovers”).

“There’s been a lot of NBC stations that have suffered significant declines in late prime, and that’s not going to happen with this lineup based on the estimates buyers are getting,” said Eric Lassberg, president and GM of NBC affiliate KXAN-TV Austin. “All evidence points to our ratings going up [at 10 p.m.].”

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

So, Leno is back to beating Letterman (sad), but Leno (and NBC) loses in the end because they aren’t picking up any viewers under the age of 50 years old – you know, all of those viewers who might actually want to buy some of stuff being advertised during those all-important commercial breaks. NBC might get bragging rights for beating Letterman, but advertisers are going to be pulling out by the end of the year if Leno doesn’t get a viewership that’s anything less than geriatric.

Basically, Leno still sucks and it’s okay to still hate him.

Oh, and you know what Conan is up to? He just announced the name of his new TBS show – “Conan”.


Leno on August 5, 2010. Credit: WENN.

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50 Responses to “Jay Leno still sucks, ‘Tonight Show’ ratings are worse than ever”

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  1. Sumodo1 says:

    Until Conan is back, I’ve been watching Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert because the laughs are constant and consistent.

    I am boycotting bother Letterman (cheater!) and Leno (douche!).

    So, when it’s COCO time, I’ll do Conan, then flip over to Comedy Central for the repeat of Stewart and Colbert.

    Thus, by-passing the major networks entirely.

  2. Tiffany says:

    I have decided to send my resume to NBC. I have no experience in television except watching it, and I am confident that I will do a better job of running it Zucker and Co.I am starting to think that ’30 Rock’ is not too far off when they make fun of the higher ups.

  3. Lori says:

    LOL! Jay Leno is a snooze fest and his comedy is reminiscent of Bob Hope’s from back in the day.

  4. well that sucks, I love Jay!

  5. Jackson says:

    You know, I used to watch Letterman all the time, back in the day. Then, eh, I realized he’s just not that funny any longer. Although, his interviews are good because he goes off-script and doesn’t mind putting his guests on the spot from time to time. I started watching Jay several years ago and, eh, he was ok. Not great but not much to pick from at that time of night. And, yes, I like the headlines segments, but that’s about it. I tried watching him a few times since he’s come back but he just isn’t as funny as he used to be, which says a lot. He seems so stiff, so corporate, so vanilla, or even moreso I guess I should say. Lately I’ve been watching Nightline and then the beginning of Jimmy K. I am really, really looking forward to seeing Conan’s new show. I appreciate his wit and intelligence and cannot wait until November when he hits the air.

    Go Coco!!!

  6. Chris says:

    I love Conan so much. He looks exhausted and like he has aged 10 years since this all went down.

    I will never understand why Leno beats Letterman in the ratings. Ugh.

  7. aenflex says:

    I adore Conan!

  8. margaret says:

    Leno was never a favorite of mine. Letterman was. Now that I am older I really don’t watch either one. But I always want Letterman to win. I don’t see why people like Leno. Though I might pretend to like him if he will let me sit in some of his cars.

  9. Jean says:

    I hope that little troll Zucker gets the boot once Comcast takes over NBC.

  10. NotBuyingIt says:

    awww… I love me some Leno!

  11. Laprofesora says:

    I am so looking forward for Conan’s comeback! I honestly dont really watch late night shows, but when all that drama happened, it really made me angry, I was actually very surprised. I like Conan, he seems like a decent guy, who really got his ass handed to him.

    So now, something called karma is going to hopefully flame Jay and NBC’s ass.

  12. Jover says:

    Used to watch leno all the time until the fiasco; haven’t watched him since. Watch the end of letterman and Fallon to catch musical guests (Betty Levette, Alejandro Escovedo, Karen Elson) you won’t normally see.
    Several problems: there are too many uninteresting celebs, pseudo celebs, reality celebs, not like the old days of Carson when Sheky Greene (sic) could come on and shoot the breeze and be naturally funny. Today’s younger celebs are too busy trying to be hip, cool, and edgy they’re not, instead of being interesting (the fact that they don’t ad lib funny stories tells how self absorbed and narcissistic many of them are). Also, maybe the whole talk show format has just worn itself out; idk if a variety show once or twice a week would work but its worth a shot; it couldn’t be any worse than Leno. Still watch Ferguson on CBS and he wisely has usually only one guest and then a musical act – Leno needs to retire.

  13. GatsbyGal says:

    Leno is a dull, fat idiot. He’s not funny and he never has been and never will be.

  14. lucy2 says:

    LOL Tiffany, you and me both.

    I think the demo numbers show the major flaw in NBC’s decisions – Conan was their host of the future, bringing a younger audience along with him, and someone probably a lot more capable to keep up as TV changes than Leno is. Plus all the negative publicity didn’t help either.

    I’m looking forward to Conan’s new show and will definitely watch. I also really like Craig Ferguson, I DVR his show, Daily Show, and Colbert Report every night, though I don’t always manage to catch up on every episode.

  15. Sassy says:

    Leno=Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Conan=LAUGHTER

  16. gretchen says:

    surprised no one mentioned George Lopez…he’s my new favorite, i laugh just at the faces he makes, really funny…also think i heard that sandra bullock produces it for her good friend George

  17. Laurie says:

    Leno stated at one point that if Conan’s ratings are bad then he deserved to be fired from the Tonight Show. I guess it is time for Leno to be fired now?!! Team Coco.

  18. lucy2 says:

    gretchen, I think Sandra produced his sitcom, but not the late night show. Not 100% sure though.
    There’s something about George that bothers me, and the few minutes I’ve seen of his show here or there didn’t impress me much, but I think he’s been doing well with it.

  19. shiny666 says:

    while i’m not sure i think either conan o’brien or jay leno are all that funny, i think leno has the image of being a more real, up-front person. in any case, i still prefer stephen colbert, and of course jon stewart, especially when he was bashing glenn beck. stephen and jon are both pretty great in their own right. but if i really, truly want to laugh, i do one of two things. a) watch how horribly people drive. b) watch a few ‘real’ news reports and a few dozen completely moronic commercials while shoving a pack of zingers down and choking down some coffee. or maybe some bourbon. whatever you preference. just don’t mix the zingers and bourbon.

  20. shiny666 says:

    whatever you preference. i’m an ass. whatever you prefer, whatever your preference. just whatever. p.s. letterman and leno are basically equivalent, imo.

  21. Juice in LA says:

    Thank you for this! Its like you thought it was my birthday and just knew a Story about Leno failing would be the perfect gift. Because it is.

    also- I second @Sumodo’s motion, and move to adjourn the meeting for holiday weekend fun!

  22. Newyorking says:

    You guys talking about finding a job with NBC, I interviewed with them and it was a disaster. I don’t watch TV and know nothing about media. An Asian dude interviewed me and it was so obvious that he was looking for an out. The entire interview was weird and I left feeling that I would never apply to NBC again.

  23. Tiffany says:

    @ Newyorking.

    So your saying….I have a chance :)

  24. dingle says:

    if i want to laugh i watch the daily show.
    jay just isn’t funny and is really annoying. i can’t believe people laugh at his jokes? so boring.

  25. Brittney says:

    I can’t wait to watch Conaw!

  26. melinda says:

    Leno sucks. He is not funny at all. I was just thinking the other day about how I miss watching Dave. I’m too geriatric to stay up past 11 (and I’m only 30).

  27. scout says:

    “because they aren’t picking up any viewers under the age of 50 years old – ….if Leno doesn’t get a viewership that’s anything less than geriatric.”

    Wow, I had no idea that 50 is considered geriatric to some people! That is kind of sad for them because they are writing off a bunch of wonderfully fun years still ahead of them!

    And the comment about these “geriatric” folks not wanting to buy that which is advertised seems to imply that they also think at 50, they will become outdated and irrelevant!

    I am just glad that I, and so many I know, have a much better outlook on life after 50! I feel sorry for these other folks who cut their good years so drastically short!

    P.S. I don’t watch any late night TV so I have no comment on the players. I just had to address those rather insulting and shortsighted statements. :-)

  28. emma says:

    i can’t wait for conan to come back. i’ve always watched conan, jon stewart, and stephan colbert – the best was when they all appeared together on a show during the writers’s strike.

  29. Michelle says:

    I don’t think Madonna would appreciate being called geriatric :)

  30. Jeri says:

    Leno has no class. He ass-kisses celebs and that’s about it, can’t even call what he does an interview. Can’t believe he beats Letterman. I’ve watched Letterman for years.

    Remember when the celebs were on talk shows longer then 15 minutes and could chat about more then their latest project without all the “don’t as about” whatever.

  31. lisa says:

    Dave is my guy…even when I don’t watch. I prefer his interviews. NEVER EVER LIKED LENO.. especially after the LateNight wars.. I still remember David getting the shaft.. I don’t forgive that easily.

    Thing is neither show is that relevant because the BIG name stars don’t need these shows to promote, and some of the B/C lister are boring and generic. They all look the same, sound the same, and they will be replaced in a few years by other B/C list stars.

    But that being said… go DAVE.

  32. Diva says:

    I watched Leno since high school… until he pulled his shit on Conan, now, I refuse to watch him at all (although, I did once cheat on Conan and watched Robert Pattinson on Leno, but JUST that segment, I PROMISE, Coco, he means NOTHING to me, I swear and it was just that ONE TIME!)

    I watch Letterman now, and then, even though I should be sleeping, I HAVE to watch Craigy Ferg! I soooo love him! Another geek crush I have, *sigh* Craig Ferguson.

  33. LolaBella says:

    No wonder. Leno is NOT funny, cannot conduct a decent interview and kisses his guests’ asses so much it makes me cringe in embarrassment for him.

    Oh and Karma’s a bitch Jay.

    Conando – TBS, November 8th, 2010; I’ll be there!

  34. Spike says:

    I’m in that alleged demographic watching Leno — he’s as dull as dishwater. Maybe watched once or twice. Used to love Letterman, but as with others I’m now a Stewart/Colbert shipper.

    I am looking forward to Conan’s new show — he was brilliant during that fiasco. It was also a great move to defer some of his settlement to his crew, but he just seems like that kind of guy.

  35. Play-Doh says:

    And let’s not forget that Leno’s salary is $20M a year more than Conan’s was – so even with the same ratings, he’s losing waay more money for NBC!

    I’ve always preferred Letterman to Leno; Leno’s humor always seemed mean-spirited, yet bland; but now all he’s got is mean-spirited stuff: “Jaywalking” and “Headlines” are both: “Hey! Look at the Stupid People!!” He should have bowed out gracefully when he had the chance.

  36. Lady LaLa says:

    Team Coco

  37. JC126 says:

    Leno is a classless jerk. GO CONAN!!

  38. Kiska says:

    Out of all the late night hosts, my pick is Craig Ferguson.
    Never liked Leno
    Letterman lost my respect
    Conan is okay.

  39. Jazz says:

    Can’t believe Leno is beating Letterman. Don’t get Ferguson in my country, so Letterman and Conan are my picks. I haven’t watched Leno in ages and I’m not about to start either!

  40. The Bobster says:

    Coco’s monologue: Palin sucks, Bush is an idiot, Kirstie Alley is fat, Obongo is God. It gets boring fast.

  41. anne says:

    i hope when conan comes back he’ll be as crazy (or even more so) as he was on his late night show, especially like the earlier days – wacky skits, funny travel videos, off-the-cuff humor, etc. i hope tbs’s mandate is to let conan do whatever he wants whenever he wants – they’re on cable after all.

    i dont understand zucker/leno thinking that after this mess, there would be good feelings for leno, especially since he was so ungracious about it.

    when leno couldnt stand up to kimmel’s on-the-spot repertoire, it showed how much leno depended on writers to do most of his thinking for him. also, leno cant do interviews well at all. it’s cringe-worthy.

  42. original kate says:

    gah! i am so sick of this “rivalry” between conan and leno. why? because they are both unfunny (well, conan is marginally funny) and despite all their whining they are damn lucky to be making the millions of dollars they make for relatively little work. their shows suck. in fact, all the late night shows, including SNL, are so lame and unfunny – they should all be cancelled. i think they should bring back MST3K or chappell’s show.

  43. canadianchick says:

    Coco is too wacky, Letterman is a cheater, so I watch Leno and Jon Stewart.

  44. Andrea says:

    I looove Craig Ferguson!

    Letterman is meh. Don’t like Leno or Conan.

  45. Nancy says:

    Since Conan went off the air, we’ve tried Letterman, Fergeson, and Fallon, all with eventual boredom. I agree with sumodo1, we watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for our laughs (and news) and anxiously await Conan’s return to late night on TBS. Thank goodness for DVR. Oh did you notice we have not watched Leno since all that drama happened.

  46. anon says:

    watch Leno every night, love him :-)

  47. snappyfish says:

    here is the point of all of this. Johnny Carson didn’t like Leno, he didn’t want Leno to have his show. He wanted Dave to have it, went so far as to write for Dave once he retired. In a very sweet gesture Dave did a monologue after Carson’s death and after it was over he informed the audience that what they had just heard has been complete written by Carson.

    Leno has never been funny and the things that he does do that are somewhat whimsical he stole from other comedians or shows…Jay walking? stolen from an old cable game show called Street Smarts. The Headlines? That was Johnny’s skit just continued.

    When I get around to watching late night it is always Dave. I do get my news from Stewart and Colbert….

    Will tune in to Conan just to see how he does as he was treated unfairly. Leno needs to go, a trained monkey could do a better job, strike that an untrained monkey could better.

  48. Truthzbetta says:

    I quit watching once they added insult to injury. Their group think politics are dull as dirt.

    Injury is their boring guests, these dumb as rocks celebs trying to infomercial their boring shows.

    Insult is when they decided insulting half the country with their political nagging and rude remarks was a way to send me off to dream land. Carson never pulled this. I don’t want to hear who Ben Afleck and Tyrah Banks think I should vote for, lies and insults about half the country from the hosts, and other Hollywood group think when I’m trying to relax from a hard day.

    They’re all carbon copies of each other, and now that they and all their guests are the dumbest celebs around and political clones of each other I’ve found better ways to wind down.

  49. Chinner says:

    I cannot imagine anyone would have had any expectation that Jay would have been funny again. He hasn’t been for years. He can’t interview and if you’re funny, he won’t have you on because he doesn’t want to be upstaged.

  50. Jay Leno Sucks says:

    Jay Leno manages to insult Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Republicans, and the South in the first few minutes of his show. Maybe he should work on some new jokes and stop insulting at least half of the USA.