ABC is making a big move in late-night, pulling Jimmy Kimmel from his home at midnight and placing the show at 11:35 p.m. in January, right up against the two long-running late-night franchises on NBC and CBS.
Meanwhile, news program “Nightline,” which has run for years in the 11:35 slot, will now be shifted to 12:35 a.m., the network announced Tuesday.
The move comes in the middle of a big year for Kimmel, who celebrates the 10th anniversary of his show this year. In addition to making headlines for his viral videos, the comedian also got some laughs while entertaining at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and next month, will host the Emmy Awards for the first time.
“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,” said Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC Television Group in the announcement. “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.”
It also means that “Jimmy Kimmel Live” could be a bigger moneymaker earlier in the night than “Nightline.” Ratings-wise, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is the only late-night show to score an annual ratings growth in total viewers, or in the 18-49 category; it also just had its biggest July sweep ever. Plus, his audience could see big increases, given that more people are watching television at 11:35 than after midnight.
As for “Nightline,” the news show — often the subject of cancellation rumors, and was trimmed down to 25 minutes earlier this year to accomodate an earlier start time for Kimmel — is growing as well, with a primetime spot in Friday nights at 9 starting in March. (It replaces “Primetime: What Would You Do?” which ABC says will find a new home on the schedule.)
“Nightline” has been on top in the ratings this year as well, beating both “The Tonight Show” and “Late Show” in total viewers and adults 18-49. “Nightline” has averaged 3.8 million viewers season to date, while “The Tonight Show” averages 3.7 million, and “Late Show” has 3 million.
“This shift also allows us to bookend our programming day with compelling news content,” Sweeney said. “And the addition of a new primetime hour of ‘Nightline’ on Friday nights will ensure that the program has even more opportunities to continue its incredible, award-winning reporting.”
Why delay the move to January? The schedule shift — Kimmel will debut is new timeslot on Jan. 8 — is timed to take advantage of promotional platforms such as Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve special on ABC, the network said, along with sister cable channel ESPN’s Bowl Championship series, which wraps up Jan. 7. Plus, “Nightline” will stay on its regular schedule through the election season.
And as TV Guide noted , Jimmy Kimmel’s contract with ABC was up in February 2013 — but with this new deal, he’s signed to remain at the network through 2015.
Meanwhile, here is the memo ABC News president Ben Sherwood sent to the news division staff about the “Nightline” move:
I’m writing to let you know about changes the network is making in late night and primetime.
ABC believes it has a stronger growth opportunity in late night if Jimmy Kimmel Live precedes Nightline, so starting January 8th, Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live will switch time periods. Nightline is moving to 12:35 a.m. ET, and JKL will take over at 11:35 p.m.
In this new arrangement Nightline will expand in length to fill the half hour, and, significantly, the Nightline team will also produce an additional hour every week in primetime on Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. beginning March 1st.
With its success and growth, What Would You Do? will also find a new home on the schedule.
As you all know, growth is a primary objective of ABC and our news division. In the last year the network has supported our important growth initiatives through the Yahoo! digital deal and our innovative joint venture with Univision and has helped us achieve the resurgence we’re enjoying at Good Morning America. And the network remains fully supportive of our strategy to win the present and future of news and information.
I know you’ll have many questions, and we’ll answer them in smaller groups starting today.
For now, it’s important to note that Nightline has proven its ability to grow over three decades on the air with the show currently enjoying some of its highest ratings and best editorial work ever. The Nightline team will now bring its excellent journalism to new time periods, and we especially welcome the chance to produce an hour every Friday in primetime, where new audiences will be introduced to the program’s signature storytelling, interviewing and investigations.
These changes take effect 20 weeks from now, and until then, Nightline remains in its existing time slot with a lot of important work to do, including covering two conventions, four debates and a presidential election. Our viewers are counting on us to deliver the exceptional journalism that has always defined Nightline.
Next year, when these changes are implemented, I’m confident that our loyal viewers will stay with Nightline, and its immensely talented anchors, correspondents and staff will enjoy many successes for years to come.