Jimmy Fallon Is America’s Favorite Late-Night Talk Show Host
Talk shows have been a television staple in American households for decades, but that time may be coming to an end. As U.S. consumers cut the cable cord and increasingly consume entertainment in new ways, some cable networks are considering cutting back on traditional talk show programming.
Longtime favorites including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart have either retired or left their late-night posts for other ventures in recent years. Trevor Noah — Stewart’s replacement as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” — is now the latest big name to call it quits amid the evolving landscape.
In light of Noah’s departure earlier this month, Morning Consult surveyed Americans to find out who among TV’s remaining active hosts are most popular — and where viewers’ opinions of the talk show genre stand today.
Fallon Outduels Kimmel as America’s Favorite Late-Night Jimmy
America loves Jimmy Fallon
- Among current late-night talk show hosts, Americans reported the highest net favorability rating of “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, at 39. Roughly 3 in 5 U.S. adults (61%) said they have watched the legacy NBC show with Fallon at the helm. (Net favorability rating is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion minus the share with an unfavorable opinion.)
- Including retired talk show hosts, Jay Leno, who hosted “The Tonight Show” from 1992 to 2009 and then again from 2010 to 2014, had the highest net favorability rating of any host, at 48. David Letterman, whose shows across NBC and CBS aired from 1982 to 2015, also ranked highly with a net favorability rating of 40.
- Daytime hosts Drew Barrymore and Kelly Clarkson earned higher net favorability ratings than any other active hosts. Both were famous entertainment figures prior to launching their own branded talk shows. Barrymore started “The Drew Barrymore Show” in 2020, while Clarkson launched “The Kelly Clarkson Show” in 2019, both of which were recently renewed by CBS and NBCUniversal, respectively. Morning Consult data found that 35% of respondents have watched Barrymore’s show, while 42% have watched Clarkson’s.
- Satirical late-night hosts like Eric André and Ziwe appeared lower on the list among all adults but had much higher favorability ratings among Gen Zers and millennials.
- James Corden appeared below many of his late-night contemporaries with a net favorability rating of 16. Meanwhile, Ellen DeGeneres, whose daytime show ended this year, had a net favorability rating of only 7, while Wendy Williams received the lowest score of all the hosts included in the survey, at minus 9. All three have been embroiled in controversies of some kind in recent years.
About Half of Americans Never Watch Talk Shows Live
Talk show viewing split evenly between live broadcasts and online clips
- More than half of Americans (52%) said they never watch daytime talk shows live, while nearly half (47%) said they never watch late-night talk shows live.
- Late-night is slightly more popular than daytime overall, with 26% of adults saying they watch them live on a weekly basis, compared with 22% who said they watch daytime shows that often.
- Gen Zers were significantly more likely to say they consume late-night shows via online clips as opposed to live broadcasts. More than 2 in 3 (68%) said they watch late-night clips online at least monthly, while 50% of the young cohort said they do the same for live late-night broadcasts.
The future of talk shows
While Americans have their share of favorite daytime and late-night hosts, it’s clear that viewing patterns and industry economics are moving Americans away from talk shows as the must-see, live entertainment of old.
Appointing likable celebrities with solid favorability — like Barrymore and Clarkson — to high-profile spots could be a viable solution for networks to direct more eyeballs toward their efforts on cable TV. But regardless of who hosts the shows, much of the viewing for both late-night and daytime talk shows is happening in bite-sized increments online, long after the live broadcasts are over. It may not be long before the longtime American entertainment staple is predominantly an internet experience.
The Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.