ABC’s Kimmel Elbows Into Late-Night Slot Against Leno

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, the only late-night host on broadcast TV to increase his audience this season, goes head to head for the first time tonight with NBC’s Jay Leno and CBS’s David Letterman.

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC is moving “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” to 11:35 p.m., starting with guest Jennifer Aniston and a performance by the band No Doubt. The show, which had aired at midnight, pushes “Nightline” back to 12:35 a.m.

With Kimmel’s move, ABC is seeking to close an advertising gap with Comcast Corp.’s NBC and the CBS Corp. network. “Nightline,” which outdrew Leno and Letterman in total viewers and the 18-to-49-year-olds targeted by advertisers, commanded a lower price for ads than the late-night hosts, according to Nielsen data.

“Kimmel is a show with more buzz,” said Peter Gardiner, chief media officer at Deutsch Inc., an advertising company in New York. “When it comes to advertising in late night, it’s part analytical and part anecdotal.”

Entertainment shows are more popular with marketers and draw a broader mix of advertisers than news programs, Gardiner said. That means Kimmel could attract a smaller audience than Leno or Letterman and still charge more than “Nightline” for ads, he said.

Advertisers paid $21,800 in October for a 30-second commercial during “Nightline,” according to the most recent data available from Nielsen. The newscast is averaging a nightly audience of 3.88 million viewers, including 1.08 million ages 18 to 49, since the September start of the television season, according to Nielsen.

Ad Rates

“Late Show with David Letterman,” which is averaging a nightly audience of 3.05 million, including 907,000 viewers ages 18 to 49, charged $26,500 for a commercial. On “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” a commercial cost $30,200, with the show drawing 3.44 million viewers, 1.03 million of those in the target demographic, according to Nielsen.

The days of one or two shows dominating late night are long gone, with broadcast and cable programs competing for a fractured audience. Before today, Kimmel, 45, overlapped with Leno and Letterman, as well as NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and CBS’s Craig Ferguson, who host shows starting at 12:35 a.m. Starting tonight, Kimmel will also compete with Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central and Conan O’Brien on TBS.

“We’re going to look back at this time in 10 years, and there are going to be 30 talk shows on at 11:35 and none of it is going to seem like it was particularly special anymore,” Kimmel said on a conference call last month with reporters.

Street Tricks

Late night’s biggest competition may be from people watching shows recorded earlier on DVRs, Chris Ender, a CBS spokesman, said in an interview.

“This is business as usual for us in late night,” Ender said. “There is competition everywhere.”

With the new show, Kimmel told reporters he expects to do more comedy routines on the sidewalks outside his studio in Hollywood.

In “Live Witness News,” passersby are tricked into lying, he said. In one recent segment, Kimmel asked people what they like about the new iPhone 5 when they’ve actually been handed an iPhone 4. In another spot, he polled people whether they thought Ann Romney or Michelle Obama won a first lady debate that never actually occurred.

“We’ve been trying some man-on-the-street type bits out, and so those things will become regular parts of the show,” Kimmel said. “It will pretty much be the same show that we’ve been doing.”

‘Nightline’ Loss

In the later slot, Kimmel is averaging 1.88 million viewers a night this season, a 5.8 percent increase from a year ago, according to Nielsen data. Letterman’s audience has slid 6 percent and Leno’s has declined 6.5 percent.

Leno may pick up viewers who would have tuned into “Nightline’” on ABC, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters at a TV conference in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 6.

“The bigger concern I would have is the loss of ‘Nightline’ in the time period,” Greenblatt said of ABC’s late night moves. “There’s going to be some viewers freed up, and I’m not sure they’re going to go to Jimmy Kimmel, necessarily.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.