"Jimmy Kimmel Live” will move to 11:35 p.m. in January -- a move that'll put pressure on the two big boys and instantly propell ABC into the late-night battles. And what is good for “Kimmel” is not so good for “Nightline.” The veteran news mag, which has been resurgent in recent years, will move to 12:35 but gets a Friday prime-time hour where -- I can almost here the grumbling on West 66th now -- it will be guaranteed to get an audience numbered in the dozens.
Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement: “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. There is the potential for far greater upside over the long term with this shift, given increased advertiser demand for competitive entertainment programming in the time slot.” She continued: “This shift also allows us to bookend our programming day with compelling news content. And the addition of a new prime-time hour of ‘Nightline’ on Friday nights will ensure that the program has even more opportunities to continue its incredible, award-winning reporting.”
“Kimmel/Live” most certainly deserves this shot -- the show is good, sometimes very good, and the host as sure-footed and confident as the best of 'em. He can easily hold his own against “Letterman” and “Leno” but ABC probably shouldn't expect miracles. Their audiences: Broader-based; his audience: More male-centric, concentrated in major markets. “Leno” easily takes the crown at 11:35, with "Letterman” -- fresh into a new two-year (estimated) deal -- takes the critical plaudits.
But ABC is, or certainly should be, looking to the future. After that little gambit Friday, even Comcast may be wondering how much longer even Leno will suffer -- a word very loosely applied here -- the slings and arrows of outrageous network management. Meanwhile, Dave -- who turned 65 in April -- may be considering the day he too will hang it up.
If so...bingo! The field will be wide open for that guy named Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. The network is smartly playing its long card now. Jimmy, by the way, is a mere lad of 44.
Meanwhile, I do have a hunch that may or may not be true -- other networks made a play for Kimmel -- probably Fox, but I wouldn't rule out FX or NBC, even CBS either -- and one of his ironclad conditions: Put me at 11:35.
If so, good for Jimmy. He not only deserves the big move, but forced it.