An appearance by President Barack Obama, a first for a sitting president, delivered the highest Tonight Show rating in metered market households since the program's tribute to Johnny Carson in Jan. 2005. The Tonight Show delivered an 11.2/26 rating Thursday, tying the Carson tribute and improving upon its season average by 187%. The last time The Tonight Show drew a higher metered market rating was May, 1998, following the Seinfeld series finale, when it drew a 12.4.
The show was the fourth highest rated metered market household rating in the 16 years Leno has been hosting the program. The only nights topping it were Leno's first night hosting in May, 1992, the night of the Cheers finale in May, 1993 and the night of the Seinfeld finale.
While Leno did not have to compete with the Late Show with David Letterman, he was up against college basketball on CBS, which typically draws strong ratings
The ratings spilled over to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which had its best night yet since Fallon took over nearly three weeks ago. Late Night drew a 3.9/13, the best ratings for the show since the edition following the Tonight Show Carson tribute in 2005.
Last Call with Carson Daly also saw its best ratings since 2005 with a 1.8/7.