Update: Monday morning, news broke that Sunday’s post-Super Bowl edition of “The Tonight Show” outperformed the 2015 edition in the overnight household ratings.
Monday afternoon, NBC issued revised data, confirming that this year’s “Tonight Show” actually drew a smaller overall audience.
According to NBC, the 2018 post-game “Tonight Show” averaged 8.40 million live+same-day viewers. The 2015 edition drew 9.83 million.
Each had factors working to its advantage.
The 2015 edition aired earlier (12:13AM ET vs. 12:24AM ET) and in the aftermath of a higher-rated game. It also featured appearances from members of the New England Patriots, who had just defeated the Seattle Seahawks in a thriller of a game.
The other in-studio guests were Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Drew Barrymore and Ariana Grande. A myriad of celebrities also appeared for a pre-produced “We Are The Champions” cover.
This year’s broadcast also had some conceivable advantages.
While the game itself was down from 2015, the immediate post-game program (“This Is Us”) outperformed the post-game show from 2015 (“The Blacklist”). As such, NBC had more viewers sticking around after the game — and thus more people to hopefully retain through “The Tonight Show.”
It also featured appearances by the cast members of “This Is Us” (appearing a half-hour after the momentous post-game episode), two performances, an interview and a sketch with Justin Timberlake (who just headlined the Super Bowl halftime show) and a visit from megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Despite airing later in the night, this year’s post-Super Bowl “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” narrowly outperformed the 2015 edition in the preliminary, metered market ratings.
Citing metered market data, NBC reveals that this year’s episode drew a 5.7 overnight household rating from 12:24-1:35AM ET.
NBC last hosted the game (and aired a post-game “Tonight Show”) in 2015; it drew a 5.5 rating from 12:13-1:08AM ET.
This year’s special featured Justin Timberlake, Chris Stapleton, the cast of “This Is Us” and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The 2015 show featured Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Ariana Grande and a celebrity-rich “We Are The Champions” montage.
While preliminary data suggests that the 2015 game drew a larger audience, direct lead-out program “The Blacklist” did not fare as well as this year’s “This Is Us.”
With more people sticking around after the game, this year’s “Tonight Show” stood to benefit — despite the later start time.
This year’s “Tonight Show,” moreover, featured five cast members from “This Is Us.” Further synergy came from the involvement of Timberlake, who headlined the Super Bowl Halftime Show earlier Sunday night.