BY: LYNN ELBER
LOS ANGELES – Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show is getting a midnight start, courtesy of a five-minute sacrifice by “Nightline.”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” will move back from 12:05 a.m. to midnight EST as of Feb. 4, ABC said Thursday. That will cut “Nightline,” which had been airing from 11:35 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. EST, to 25 minutes instead of a half-hour.
The news program, however, will gain a series of 13 prime-time episodes, ABC News President Ben Sherwood said in a staff memo that was released by ABC. He said the hourlong shows would “minimize the disruption” to “Nightline.”
ABC also intends to trim the commercial time within “Nightline” to largely preserve the program’s content, a spokeswoman said.
For Kimmel, the move gives him the chance to build his audience by going head-to-head with other midnight shows, including George Lopez on TBS. In the crowded TV landscape, even a few minutes difference can determine which show viewers pick and stay with.
Kimmel’s show will pick up six minutes in length, with its current 1:06 a.m. EST end time remaining the same.
ABC has reason to back both the news program and Kimmel. “Nightline,” which is averaging 3.9 million viewers, outdraws time-slot competitors David Letterman on CBS or Jay Leno on NBC, while Kimmel’s viewership is up 2 percent this season, to 1.7 million.
“Nightline” has been vulnerable in the past to ABC’s ambitions to launch a late-night talk show in its time slot. In his memo, Sherwood said the network now has “definitively answered” a recurring question about the news show.
“The company firmly believes Nightline is a vital part of its successful late night strategy and Nightline will anchor the schedule at 11:35 PM. Period,” Sherwood wrote.
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