(AP) Kimmel moving into thick of late-night fight
By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
Starting in January, Kimmel’s talk show will shift from 12:05 a.m. Eastern to the 11:35 p.m. Eastern time period long held by the newsmagazine, taking advantage of Kimmel’s ratings growth and the potential for greater ad revenue, the network said.
The network is rolling the dice, taking ratings winner “Nightline” out of a competitive time slot and putting in yet another talk show. Besides network rivals Leno and Letterman, the hour is home to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, Conan O’Brien on TBS and Chelsea Handler on E! Entertainment.
Kimmel said he is ready for the challenge.
Letterman graciously welcomed him to the fray.
Kimmel, newly engaged to Molly McNearney, his show’s co-head writer, and set to host next month’s Emmy Awards, is having a run of good fortune. But the droll comedian wouldn’t admit to savoring it.
Kimmel’s show increased its viewership by 3 percent last season, the only such growth among network late-night talk shows, ABC said.
But there is more advertiser demand for entertainment programming at that hour, Sweeney said, creating the opportunity for “far greater upside over the long term.”
Several years ago ABC made another attempt to get entertainment programming in the time slot by unsuccessfully trying to get Letterman to move from CBS. The attempt caused some unrest within ABC News, as then-“Nightline” host Ted Koppel resisted being displaced.
What became “Nightline” originated in November 1979 as 15-minute updates on the Iranian hostage crisis airing nightly at 11:30 p.m. Titled “The Iran Crisis _ America Held Hostage,” this late-night newscast was greeted by many viewers as a welcome alternative to NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
Last season, Letterman averaged 3.22 million viewers; Leno, 3.71 million; “Nightline,” 3.89 million; and Kimmel, 1.8 million. The talk-show figures include the second half-hour that includes drowsy audience drop-off.
He said the news magazine welcomed the chance to produce a prime-time hour for a new audience and expressed confidence it will “enjoy many successes for years to come.”
The changeover’s timing is in part a function of politics. “Nightline” is a piece of ABC News’ general election coverage, and ABC stations and affiliates will be beneficiaries of the ad dollars spent on campaign spots being placed around “Nightline” and other news shows.
ABC also sees two good platforms to promote Kimmel in January. Besides its “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” broadcast, it will call on sister network ESPN’s five-game Bowl Championship series, which ends on Jan. 7, to showcase his new-slot debut the next night.
Asked his reaction to winning the coveted new time slot, Kimmel invoked the memory of Conan O’Brien’s ill-fated move to “Tonight’ at NBC. It ended when the network tried to return the slot to Leno; O’Brien bolted to a new show at TBS and Leno reclaimed “Tonight.”
He doesn’t expect to make any changes in the show for the new time slot.
Leno can attest to the continuing vagaries of late-night work: On Friday, “Tonight” laid off about two-dozen workers and Leno accepted a pay cut to spare other staffers as NBC Universal cut down on expenses under new owner Comcast Corp.
It became comic fodder on Monday’s show.
Television Writers David Bauder and Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.