Jimmy Fallon’s late-night footprint will get a little bigger during football season. In a bid to take advantage of the Peacock’s huge Sunday Night Football audience, Fallon’s NBC Tonight Show is planning special post-game editions on five Sunday evenings this fall, the network said Thursday. The Sunday episodes will air after NBC affiliates’ local newscasts (as happens on weeknights), but the adjacency to football should deliver a ratings boost for Fallon, even if those Sunday episodes air a bit later than the show’s usual 11:37 p.m. airtime. The Sunday installments of Tonight will kick off on September 8, the same night Super Bowl champs New England take on Pittsburgh in Foxborough, with future weekend broadcasts slotted for October 6, 20, and 27 as well as December 1. The Sunday episodes will be pre-taped, and will result in Tonight airing reruns on Fridays those weeks.
The Sunday play isn’t the only stunt Tonight is planning for the fall. NBC also says Fallon’s show will air live episodes every night during premiere week (September 23–27), following on the live shows Tonight (and several other late-night series) did after this summer’s Democratic primary debates. NBC’s push to get more eyeballs on Fallon at the start of the fall comes following a 2018–2019 season which saw Tonight lose its status as the No. 1 late-night show in the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults under 50 to CBS’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert and as Fallon slipped further behind Colbert in overall audience. At the end of the official season in May, Tonight was averaging about 2.4 million viewers, putting it closer to third-place Jimmy Kimmel Live (2 million) than ratings champ Colbert (3.8 million.)