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Arts & Entertainment

Jimmy Kimmel to compete with late-show stalwarts in ABC ratings race

Host Jimmy Kimmel speaks onstage at the
Host Jimmy Kimmel speaks onstage at the "64th Primetime Emmy Awards"
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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Late night show host Jimmy Kimmel is getting a new and improved time slot starting January 8. He’ll be head to head with Jay Leno and David Letterman, immediately following the evening news at 11:35 p.m.

“Kimmel is seen as the future at ABC … with both David Letterman and Jay Leno in their 60s, by repositioning Kimmel into the same time period, ABC sets up a situation where Kimmel … is the incumbent,” said Brian Lowry, media columnist and chief TV critic for Variety.

The late-night audience is seen as an important one even in the ever-fracturing television climate. Leno is the leader with 3.7-million nightly viewers followed by Letterman at 3 million, The “Daily Show” has 2.1 million and Jimmy Kimmel with a later timeslot receiving 1.8 million viewers.

Lowry doesn’t think that Kimmel’s show will change much in the earlier time slot but that he will stick to his core comedy routine.

The move is seen, to some, as a slap in the face to ABC News — whose prestigious news magazine, "Nightline," takes a backseat at 12:35 a.m., starting in March. Lowry believes that the move is not totally surprising as the “Nightline” brand doesn’t have as much clout as it did 10 years ago under the leadership of veteran journalist Ted Koppel.

The show will also get a one-hour primetime slot on a weekly basis.

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What’s the future of late night? And why are these ratings so important to the networks?


Brian Lowry, media columnist and chief TV critic for Variety