The people who watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno are old. The viewers of the program have an average age of 56, which is about 10 years older than they were when Conan O’Brien. That may be offset somewhat by a 50% surge in the viewership since Leno came back, Leno’s show is now watched by an average of 4.4 million people per night
Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University, told The New York Times “The hip young comedy stuff has all gone to cable. Maybe Jimmy Kimmel on ABC may benefit because his hip quotient seems to be on the rise.”
The news is not all bad for NBC which airs The Tonight Show. There has been a surge in pharmaceutical advertising on the network evening news programs which also have older audiences. Ads for drugs that help with erectile dysfunction and bone loss due to menopause have nearly taken over the commercial support of the evening news, which has seen its audience drop as more people turn to cable for their information.
Leno may be a profit center for NBC, but those profits are largely based on one set of advertisers. If ads from drug companies get banned from TV, which some groups have suggested because of concerns about inflated claims, The Tonight Show will be in trouble.
Douglas A. McIntyre