clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jimmy Fallon Is "A Tonight Show Host Who Speaks YouTube"

NBC would like you to watch on TV. But they're okay if you get a bite on the Web, too.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Last night, as you might have heard, Jimmy Fallon made his debut as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

This is a big deal for NBC and its owner NBCUniversal.* What does it mean for the Internet?

It means that someone who has a Very Important network TV perch is also quite consciously appealing to people who don’t watch TV.

That is: As YouTuber Tim Shey put it last night — Jimmy Fallon “speaks YouTube.”

Fallon isn’t the only network comedy host who puts his stuff online after it airs. At this point, everyone does.**

But at his last gig, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Fallon and his team, led by producer Gavin Purcell, seemed to have a particular knack for putting together stuff that would find a bigger audience on the Web than it did on TV. This was not an accident: Purcell started working with Fallon in 2009, intent on the idea of “digitizing” the show.

So by the end of his “Late Night” run, Fallon (and his team) seemed to be producing viral stuff without breaking a sweat. It would have seemed odd if skits like “#Hashtag” and “The Evolution of Mom Dancing” weren’t breakout hits.

It will be interesting to see how this stuff plays at an earlier time slot, when Fallon is tasked with reaching a wider broadcast audience while still trying to make things that work online. But he’s certainly going to try. Here’s an opening gambit from last night:

* NBCUniversal is an investor in the company that owns this website. Also, sometimes I work at a desk located at NBCU’s headquarters in 30 Rock, where Fallon tapes his show. There are posters for it all over the place, encouraging people to “start spreading the word.”

** I’m sure there are still network executives who worry that carving up their shows into bite-sized snacks and distributing them on the Web will cut into their audience (just like they did in the “Lazy Sunday” days). But the Earth is round, and people want to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch. (Unless it’s “Game of Thrones,” but that’s a different story.)

This article originally appeared on