ABC Moves Kimmel to Take on Leno, Letterman in Late Night

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC TV network will begin airing Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show at 11:35 p.m. starting in January to vie with NBC’s Jay Leno and David Letterman on CBS.

“Nightline,” the newscast that previously ran in the time slot, will move to 12:35 a.m. and will also get a prime-time show, the broadcast network said today in an e-mailed statement. The switch is effective Jan. 8, ABC said.

Kimmel, 44, brings a younger face to the time slot in a move that ABC said will satisfy advertiser demand, draw more viewers and boost revenue. In the TV season ended in May, he increased his audience by 3 percent from a year ago, garnering the most viewers in five years, ABC said. “Nightline” ranks as the most-watched network show in its current time period.

“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,” Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, said in the statement. “There is the potential for far greater upside over the long term with this shift.”

Disney, based in Burbank, California, fell 1.6 percent to $49.64 at the close in New York. The shares have climbed 32 percent this year.

As part of the change, “Nightline” will also expand to prime time on Friday nights at 9 p.m. starting March 1, ABC said. The ABC News series “What Would You Do?” will be moved to a new time, the network said.

Nightly Audience

“Nightline” has averaged 3.76 million viewers since September, the most-watched program at 11:35 p.m. weeknights, according to Nielsen ratings supplied by TV networks. The newscast’s audience has slid 5 percent from a year ago. “Kimmel,” taped in Los Angeles, is averaging 1.76 million viewers at midnight.

“I am excited, honored, and grateful to ABC for this strong vote of confidence, inexplicable as it may be,” Kimmel said in separate e-mailed statement.

“Late Show with David Letterman” is averaging 3.02 million viewers on CBS Corp.’s broadcast network at 11:35 p.m., down 11 percent from a year ago, according to the Nielsen data. In April, Letterman, 65, signed a new contract through 2014.

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” which airs concurrently on Comcast Corp.’s NBC, has declined 5 percent to average 3.68 million viewers. Leno, 62, recently accepted a reduction in pay to avoid deeper job cuts at his show.

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