ABC Is Moving Jimmy Kimmel Into the 11:35 Late-Night Battle with Leno, Letterman

By Tim Surette

Aug 21, 2012

The Leno-Letterman war is about to get flanked by a Kimmel. ABC is making a man out of Jimmy Kimmel by moving up Jimmy Kimmel Live by a half-hour, from its previous 12:05am start time to 11:35pm, when big boys The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman hit the air. However, the move will not take place until early 2013.

This is a major promotion for Kimmel, who has quietly built up an audience as an alternative to The Big Chin and Mr. Gaptooth. Kimmel's been much more Internet-savvy than Leno or Letterman, and has taken advantage of his relationship with ABC to film post-Oscars and post-NBA live specials. That has helped Jimmy Kimmel Live be the only late-night network talk show to increase its overall audience year over year, according to ABC.

On CBS and NBC, primetime ends at 11pm, giving way to local news and then either Leno or Letterman. ABC squeezes in an episode of Nightline between primetime and its late-night talk show, but now Nightline is being pushed back to 12:35am. However, Nightline will get a slight promotion with a new 9pm edition on Fridays.

As for Kimmel's move, look for him 30 minutes earlier starting January 8, 2013. ABC chose that spot because it can heavily promote the move as part of its coverage of college football bowl games and during Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve.

Does this make Kimmel a legitimate threat to the dueling empires of Leno and Letterman? It's at least the beginning. ABC absolutely loves Kimmel, and when Letterman and Leno call it quits, Kimmel should still be yukking it up. This is a solid present and future move for ABC.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • JT_Kirk Aug 23, 2012

    This surprises me not at all, ABC programming after the news is a deadzone, and Kimmel has kind of been in this waiting pattern to do something more, he feels like he's after Leno and Letterman's timeslot with the ways he's built this show. I don't think Kimmel will actually take down either of them, he's become like a mix of those 2 others - that slightly mean stuff that Leno does along with the tame humor and rhythm mixed with Letterman's absurdity and lack of respect for the system. However, should Letterman retire soon, I don't think CBS will be able to push against Kimmel's influence in the timeslot, Craig Ferguson is great but part of what makes his show so awesome is its intentionally flippant attitude towards the notion of the late night talk show as an institution, and that doesn't lend well to the 11:35p timeslot with the network's demands and bigger guests who actively want to plug stuff (Late Late Show guests often go without a plug or a clip of any kind).

    On the other hand, moving Nightline back is surprising as nobody wants to watch news into 1am, but that Friday 9pm slot makes more sense as ABC hasn't got much of anything going on. I think they should put on a 60-minutes-style Sunday 7pm show as well.

  • Sage49 Aug 22, 2012

    I like Jimmy Kimmel because he can be painfully funny without being mean. David Letterman, on the other hand reminds me of a bitter, old man. He has never gotten over being passed over by NBC for Jay Leno, for the late night host when Johnny Carson retired, and Jay Leno is just so last century.

  • Writerpatrick Aug 22, 2012

    It's my understanding that Nightline was beating all the other talkshows. This might be a bad move for the network. I do think Kimmel may beat Leno and Letterman initially as people who don't watch him check him out, but then he'll drop to third place. As for what will happen when Letterman and Leno retire, that's yet to be seen. NBC appears to be planning to use Jimmy Fallon and CBS will likely use Craig Ferguson.

  • LeahLefler Aug 22, 2012

    I am SO sick of Letterman and Leno so this is good news. I already watch Craig Ferguson if I'm still up. Another perk of of Kimmel is that he airs live so he can have Dancing With the Stars cast-offs that same night. Since I watch that show also I think that's a big draw and I'm sure a lot of others agree. Go ABC!

  • Mate Aug 22, 2012

    No particular order, just what they are good at. Ferguson for the interviews. Fallon for virtually everything else (including the roots). Kimmel is all right. He is generally competent and has good guests, decent interviews and does no harm. Conan is a nice balance of everything. He interviews great, has decent sketches, though they wre so much better with the weight of NBC and the properties they own behind him. (His stuff with Walker, Texas Ranger was hilarious). Chelsea Handler, is all right when she stays on topic. She is an ok interviewer. Her underlings are seriously lacking in every aspect. Letterman is all right. But it is the same thing over and over and over and over again. Leno is bad, he has been bad for a while. And didn't deserve getting his position back.

    Conan didn't deserve what NBC did to him.

  • vicbjones Aug 22, 2012

    When I was watching Chelsea Lately, I thought the portion of the show with her "underlings" was the best part of the show. Handler seemed to even read cue cards badly, and the best thing about her interviews was that they were at the end of the show and it was easy enough to turn off the set after the panel portion of the show.

  • bicelis Aug 22, 2012

    Craig Ferguson, 'nuff said.

  • DavidJackson8 Aug 22, 2012

    Kimmel was my go-to late night talk show host before I kind of moved on to Conan... then they were both thumped by Ferguson who I've stuck with ever since. I am a big fan of the NBA though, so I catch Kimmel every now and then when he has his NBA-centric shows.

  • KevinG87 Aug 22, 2012

    I never watch Jimmy Kimmel Live on TV anyway, I wait until the next day and just watch the interviews they put up on iTunes... but he's definitely better than both Leno and Letterman combined though. Craig Ferguson is still the best, and is the only one I will watch even if I don't like the guests, unless Jimmy Fallon has a guest I actually like because regardless of how much I like the rest, I only watch when there's a guest on, and even then I mostly tune in the last 30 minutes to just watch that.

  • RipIgloo Aug 22, 2012

    I like this idea. Neither Leno nor Letterman really appeal to the younger audience IMO. Jimmy Kimmel does. Good luck Jimmy.

  • FringeFanatic Aug 22, 2012

    Late night SHOWDOWN: (The Daily Show and Colbert Report aren't included because they're more faux-news and political satire than they are "talk shows".)

    1. Craig Ferguson

    2. Jimmy Fallon

    3. Conan O'brien

    4. Jimmy Kimmel

    5. David Letterman

    6. Jay Leno

    Jimmy Kimmel isn't the best, but he's certainly not the worst. I particularly like his "unnecessary censorship" segments ...

    I've got to stop making lists.

  • DavidJackson8 Aug 22, 2012

    Not bad. Mine, at the moment, would probably be:

    1. Craig Ferguson

    2. Conan O'Brien

    3. Jimmy Kimmel

    4. Jimmy Fallon

    5. David Letterman

    6. Jay Leno

  • wind_shadow Aug 22, 2012

    O_O!! *spit take* FRINGE!! You rank Jimmy Fallon ahead of Conan O'Brien?!?!

  • FringeFanatic Aug 22, 2012

    Ever since Conan moved to TBS he just hasn't been the same.

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