On Wednesday, Nielsen data on the season showed Colbert beating NBC's Fallon and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! in total viewers for the third consecutive year. Colbert averaged 3.82 million viewers a night, while Fallon averaged 2.44 million and Kimmel pulled in 2.04 million. Colbert was down just 2 percent compared to last season, while Fallon and Kimmel were down 9 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
However, what is really getting NBC worried is that Colbert's numbers in the key 18-49 demographic have expanded. Fallon and Colbert both tied for a 0.5 rating in the demo, but Colbert beat Fallon by just 20,000 viewers in the demo. It is the first time in 25 years that The Late Show had the most viewers in the demo, notes Page Six.
After the numbers came out, Page Six reported there was "turmoil" at The Tonight Show, which has struggled to fight Fallon's fluffy image while viewers embrace Colbert's politically topical humor. Fallon tried to fix this by bringing in Today veteran Jim Bell as showrunner, but the efforts have not helped.
Sources told Page Six that an "anguished Bell is sniping" at executive producer Lorne Michaels because Bell thinks the Saturday Night Live mastermind is "stuck in the past." Bell believes Fallon has to continue reinventing himself to successfully compete.
“We are really pleased with the innovation of The Puerto Rico Show and The Larry Sanders Show, under Jim’s leadership," an NBC Spokesperson told Page Six, referring to recent Tonight Show episodes where Fallon and Bell changed up the format. "We are excited for some new elements coming this summer and fall. Jimmy continues to share signature segments like slow jam the news, most recently with Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg."
Page Six also reported that Fallon recently faced an important departure, as his longtime producer Katie Hockmeyer left the Tonight Show. One source said Hockmeyer left the show, while an NBC executive said Hockmeyer still has a job at the network, although what that is remains unknown.
Fallon has been trying to beat the fluffy, friendly-to-celebrities image and the damage his reputation took with his infamous "hair ruffling" softball interview with future President Donald Trump in 2016. Fallon said he battled depression after he faced backlash from the interview.
"It was definitely a down time. And it's tough for morale," Fallon told The Hollywood Reporter last year. "There's 300 people that work here, and so when people are talking that bad about you and ganging up on you, in a really gang-mentality...You go, 'Alright, we get it. I heard you. You made me feel bad. So now what? Are you happy? I'm depressed. Do you want to push me more? What do you want me to do? You want me to kill myself? What would make you happy? Get over it.'"
Fallon continued, "I'm sorry. I don't want to make anyone angry — I never do and I never will. It's all in the fun of the show. I made a mistake. I'm sorry if I made anyone mad. And, looking back, I would do it differently."
Photo credit: NBC