If you’re looking for confirmation that playfully tousling Donald Trump’s hair would have a long-term negative impact on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, a new report from The New York Times has arrived with confirmation in the form of cold, hard numbers. According to the report, Fallon’s lead over Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in the 18-49 demographic has shrunk from over 500,000 viewers in 2015 to 364,000 last year to just 57,000 over the course of this month’s November sweeps. It’s good news for Jimmy Kimmel as well, as the host’s recent political push has resulted in his ABC show gaining 4% more viewers over the course of the past season. Fallon still leads in the 18-49 demo, but when it comes to total viewers, he’s been eclipsed this season by Colbert since February, with Colbert totaling 3.5 million, Fallon totaling 2.6 million, and Kimmel trailing not far behind Fallon at 2.4 million. (Fallon led the way last fall with 3.3 million, Colbert with 2.9 million, and Kimmel with 2.3 million.) According to NYT’s report, NBC execs hoped that Colbert’s popularity would eventually level out:
Mindful of Mr. Fallon’s sunny nature, NBC executives had hoped that Mr. Colbert’s surge in the wild early days of the Trump presidency would die down once the national mood had settled. They envisioned a time when this pair of temperamentally different hosts would trade victories week to week. But in the closing days of 2017, audiences have not returned to the network for Mr. Fallon’s wide-eyed style. Indeed, the November numbers show Mr. Colbert widening the gap, with a lead over Mr. Fallon of 1.1 million viewers.
Unfortunately for NBC, it appears that Colbert and Kimmel’s ratings gains are more than just a trend, and there’s no signs of them slowing down anytime soon.