How Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show Is Trying To Give Ratings A Big Boost

jimmy fallon smiling the tonight show

NBC's The Tonight Show is as familiar a TV staple as anything else currently on the small screen, but Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show is trying out a pretty unfamiliar tactic to try and get a leg up on the ratings. Starting this fall, The Tonight Show is heating things up with a select handful of episodes airing directly after NBC's primetime behemoth Sunday Night Football.

While The Tonight Show fans are accustomed to seeing Jimmy Fallon & Co. trying new tactics out for promotional purposes, those attempts to sway viewers always occur during the normal work week. However, starting on Sunday, September 8, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will kickoff the first of five different episodes set to air following Sunday Night Football, along with late local news coverage.

The September 8 game, which will be the first official Sunday Night Football telecast of the regular season, will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road and taking on the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. That match-up, which could very well foreshadow the AFC's post-season, will likely be one of the most-watched games of the early season, and it's very possible NBC will be joyous whenever the Tonight Show's viewership numbers are revealed for that episode.

Following that initial test, The Tonight Show is planning on four other dates for Jimmy Fallon to bring the post-football laughs. The dates at this point are October 6, 20 and 27, and December 1. Each telecast will air following the late local news, so start times may vary by region.

For that first post-Sunday Night Football broadcast, Jimmy Fallon will be welcoming guests Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. The two high-profile actors will be there to promote their new biographical drama Just Mercy, which is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Jimmy Fallon's other guest that night will be The Voice's multi-winning coach and pop star Kelly Clarkson, who will be there to promote her own new talk show, which is set for a syndicated start through NBCUniversal on Monday, September 9. The musical guest for the episode will be country star Kane Brown.

As far as marketing ploys go, NBC may have hit the nail squarely on the head by pairing The Tonight Show with the NFL, even if it's only for five out of 16 regular-season games. With The Late Show with Stephen Colbert winning out both in viewership and ratings for the first time in the 2018-2019 season, it was clear that some more heightened measures needed to be taken. There are few better places to start looking than the telecast that has regularly topped the list of most-watched programming on a yearly basis.

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This won't necessarily enjoy the same kind of ratings draw that the NFL inspires, but NBC also announced that The Tonight Show will be giving Jimmy Fallon a full week of completely live episodes to host. Those installments will be set during September 23-27, which is the week when all the big broadcast networks will be airing their big fall TV premieres.

NBC has some big hits coming back, as well as some promising new shows, so it should be interesting to see how well those episodes fare. (The same goes for The Late Show, considering CBS is the king of primetime dramas with NCIS and others.) If both the NFL strategy and the live-show week help boost The Tonight Show's ratings successfully enough, fans might see even more specialized episodes like that in the future.

The Tonight Show had some other offbeat marketing (of sorts) this week, with Will Ferrell making a pitstop on the talk show completely in-character as Ron Burgundy. Oddly enough, Ferrell also showed up on every other late night talk show on Thursday evening, from Conan to The Late Show to Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was, to be expected, a perfectly Will Ferrell thing of him to do.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights on NBC at 11:35 p.m. ET, though don't forget to stay up a little later on certain Sundays through the fall.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.