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.