After a decade on the air, ABC's late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live is receiving a promotion. Beginning in January, Kimmel will compete head-to-head against the giants of the genre, NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman, with a move to the 11:35 pm timeslot that has been the domain of Nightline on ABC since 1981. Deadline is reporting that the venerable newsmagazine will shift to 12:35 to accomodate the change and will also receive a permanent primetime slot on Fridays at 9:00 pm as of March 1.
Although the switch had long been rumored, the decision was triggered by Kimmel's impressive ratings momentum, as his show was the only late-night broadcast to increase its viewership over the past season. Kimmel's fanbase also skews younger than that of Nightline, making it more attractive to advertisers. In addition, the upstart talk show recently received its first Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Variety Series. Commenting on the change, Anne Sweeney—president of Disney/ABC TV Group—said, "Given the passionate fan base Jimmy Kimmel Live has built over the past decade, and the show's ratings and creative momentum this season, the time is right to make this move."
Rumors had swirled for years about ABC wanting to replace Nightline with an entertainment program to take advantage of the larger universe of viewers in the 11:35 timeslot, dating back to the network's attempt to lure David Letterman away from CBS over ten years ago. Currently, Kimmel represents ABC's longest-running late-night show ever, surpassing The Dick Cavett Show (1969-1975) and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher (1997-2002). Increasing his profile before the big switch, Kimmel himself will host the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on September 23, and the move will also be heavily promoted during the network's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest and the college football Bowl Championship Series on ESPN.
Jimmy Kimmel is easily the best of the big-name weeknight talk shows, including the sadly subpar TBS program hosted by Conan O'Brien, so this is great news for anyone tired of Leno and Letterman. The only issue is that the midnight start time was ideal if you like to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report first, as I often do. How do you feel about the big change?