NBC’s Jay Leno Withstands New Challenge From ABC’s Kimmel

Jay Leno, host of the most-watched late-night show, withstood a challenge from ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, who aired his first head-to-head program in the 11:30 p.m. time slot last night.

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Comcast Corp.’s NBC averaged 3.27 million viewers last night, versus 3.1 million for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, according to updated Nielsen data supplied by TV networks. “Late Show With David Letterman,” on CBS Corp.’s network, averaged 2.88 million viewers. Initial figures had Kimmel on top.

With Kimmel’s move, ABC is seeking to close an advertising gap with NBC and CBS network. Kimmel can draw a fewer viewers than Leno and still charge more for ads than “Nightline,” the ABC news program he’s supplanting. Entertainment shows are more popular with marketers and draw a broader mix of advertisers than newscasts, according to Peter Gardiner, chief media officer at Deutsch Inc.

Leno last night featured Emma Stone, who talked about her new film “Gangster Squad,” and Josh Gad, star of new NBC comedy “1600 Penn.” Jennifer Aniston and the band No Doubt appeared on Kimmel’s program.

“Nightline,” pushed back to 12:35 a.m. because of Kimmel’s move, averaged more viewers than CBS’s “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” according to the Nielsen ratings. “Nightline” drew 1.72 million viewers, compared with 1.5 million for Fallon and 1.42 million for Ferguson during the half hour the shows overlapped, ABC said, citing Nielsen data.

Comcast Corp., the biggest U.S. cable system, gained 0.7 percent to $38.42 at the close in New York. The stock advanced 58 percent in 2012, outpacing the 7.3 percent rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Disney, based in Burbank, California, was little changed at $50.78 and climbed 33 percent last year.

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