Jay Leno won the late night ratings war on Jimmy Kimmel’s first night in his new timeslot.
An average of around 3.1 million people checked out Kimmel’s first broadcast at 11:35 p.m. Tuesday on ABC — his second most watched episode ever.
But Jay clocked 3.3 million — and without any heavy lifting. His guests: Josh Gad, star of new NBC comedy “1600 Penn,” and Emma Stone. (Jay’s starting a minute early these days, at 11:34 p.m.)
In his first night competing directly against both Jay and CBS’s David Letterman for his full broadcast, Kimmel did edge out his idol Dave, who snagged 2.8 million viewers.
It was Kimmel’s second most-watched episode ever, and about 60 percent better than his season average of just under 2 million in his old midnight start time this season.
Leno also trounced “Jimmy Kimmel Live” among 18-49 year old viewers who are the currency of broadcast TV. Leno clocked 1.1 million of them to Kimmel’s 890,000. Letterman trailed iwht 683,000.
Meanwhile, “Nightline” which got bumped from the 11:35 start time to make way for Kimmel, beat NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and CBS’s Craig Ferguson among overall viewers. It’s unclear how many minutes of “Nightline” got rated by Nielsen. When it used to start at 11:35, Nielsen only rated 17 minutes of the news program.
That practice came back to haunt ABC Wednesday morning, what with Kimmel’s first night numbers being compared to “Nightline’s” season average of 3.9 million.
“Thank you for joining us here. A new studio, new time slot. I appreciate it. The deal is this, we used to be on at midnight. Now we’re on at 11:35. Now 25 minutes closer to my lifelong dream of co-hosting ‘The View’,” Kimmel said opening a very adequate, nothing special first show in the new timeslot.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. And I want to thank our network, ABC, for this vote of confidence. It was a big decision. It’s a risky decision…I want them to know that I understand what’s at stake here, and I do not take this responsibility lightly, especially now with the Kanye West-Kim Kardashian baby on the way. This is the time that I shine bright like a diamond.”
“For those of you who tuned in expecting to see ‘Nightline’ right now, this is not it. ‘Nightline’ is on after us now, and I hope you stay up to watch it because it’s a great show. But just because this isn’t ‘Nightline,’ that doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about important stuff. For instance, did you know Honey Boo Boo’s mother is afraid of mayonnaise?”
And the show cut to one of many taped bits used to gobble up opening monlogue time, before he introduced his first-night guest Jennifer Aniston, who broke up Kimmel’s faux desk with a sledgehammer and pretended she thought it was his last night in his old timeslot; then she gave him a haircut. Been done before.
Kimmel would have been better served having a comedian join him on stage his first night. There’s a reason Dave Letterman asked Bill Murray to be his very first guest when he launched both his NBC and his CBS late night show. Likewise, Leno asked Billy Crystal to help him through his first night hosting “Tonight.”