Let the era of Jimmy begin: ABC will shift "Jimmy Kimmel Live" from 12:05 a.m. to 11:35 p.m. in January -- a move that will put pressure on the two big boys at CBS (David Letterman) and NBC (Jay Leno) and instantly propel ABC into the thick of late-night battles for the first time in the network's history.
But what is good for "Kimmel" is not so good for "Nightline." Launched in the midst of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 with Ted Koppel at the helm, the news magazine, which has been resurgent in recent years, will move to 12:35 a.m. It also gets a Friday prime-time hour where -- one can almost hear the grumbling at ABC News' headquarters -- it will be guaranteed to get an audience numbered in the dozens.
"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, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement.
"Kimmel" certainly deserves this shot -- the show is good, vital and almost ridiculously web-friendly, with much of its audience watching online. The host is as agile and confident as the two elders of late night he will soon be facing head-on.
ABC, meanwhile, is looking to the future. After Comcast exacted deep cuts at "Tonight" last week, who knows how much longer even Leno will suffer -- a word very loosely applied here -- the slings and arrows of outrageous network management? Meanwhile, Letterman -- who turned 65 in April -- will hang it up one of these days, too. Kimmel is 44.
Finally, this: It's likely that other networks (most likely Fox and FX) have inquired about Kimmel's services. He may have demanded the 11:35 move or warned he may listen to those inquiries.
If true, good for Kimmel.