December 15, 2008 / 3:31 AM / 10 years ago

Leno on a roll as "Tonight" time dwindles

Comedian Jay Leno hosts the 30th Carousel of Hope gala in Beverly Hills, California October 25, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - He’s headed to 10 p.m. next fall, but NBC is savoring Jay Leno’s late-night performance in the fewer than 160 episodes of “The Tonight Show” he has left.

The week before NBC announced that Leno would move to primetime, “Tonight” brought in its biggest audience since February. The show averaged 5.3 million viewers for the week ending December 5, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. Late-night ratings are a week behind, so the ratings from last week won’t be known until Thursday.

But that 5.3 million viewers was the best viewership for a week since February 11-15, when Leno’s writers returned from the strike.

“Tonight” was ahead of its competitors by a wide margin; CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” was in repeats and drew 4.2 million viewers, while ABC’s “Nightline” garnered 4 million.

At 12:35 a.m., NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” (1.9 million), airing originals, beat ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (1.8 million) and CBS’ “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” (1.8 million), which were both in reruns.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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