Digital Was ‘Major Tentpole’ of ‘Tonight Show’ Relaunch With Jimmy Fallon #NYCTVWk #TCS

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Fans of Jimmy Fallon know that the Tonight Show host is a major player on digital and social media platforms, often sharing clips from the night’s show and having digital-only elements, such as backstage talks from the guests.

In fact, digital was the key element in the relaunch of NBC’s late night franchise in February.

“As part of the show’s strategy, digital was one of the major tentpoles,” Robert Hayes, executive VP of Digital NBC Entertainment, said during a keynote session with Daniel Holloway, programming and digital media editor for B&C at the Content Show that was part of NewBay Media’s NYC Television Week.

Hayes explained that from the network’s perspective, the digital aspect of the relaunch had to be successful. "That’s what’s expected now,” said Hayes of the importance of digital to the TV landscape. “Consumer behavior has changed.”

Tonight Show executive producer Gavin Purcell added that shows that don’t take advantage of digital and social media platforms are forfeiting a substantial portion of their audience. “I do think those shows are missing this opportunity.”

Purcell said he wants the clips that are shared the morning after the show to help drive viewership. For example, Fallon is known for getting his guests to do things such as Will Smith’s “History of Rap Dancing” bit on the show’s premiere. Purcell hopes viewers watch that clip and then feel compelled to watch that next night to see what Fallon will do next. “I see that clip as a commercial for the show.”

Some other highlights from the discussion:

-- Hayes explained that mobile was a major factor in the launch of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. “We really approached the relaunch of the Tonight Show as a mobile first initiative.” Purcell added: “I believe mobile has driven the idea of interaction in general.”

-- Aside from Fallon’s 11:30 p.m. competition from David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel, Purcell talked about the competition the show faces during the afternoon when he hopes viewers are catching up on clips. When asked who their competition was during those hours, Purcell said “everyone… it could even be from NASA.”

-- Hayes mentioned that one specific aspect that has greatly improved since Fallon took over is the amount of full episode views online. “We feel very confident that it’s contributing to the overall success of the ratings.”