Jimmy Kimmel moving into thick of late-night fight

LOS ANGELES — “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is moving into the thick of the late-night fight against Jay Leno and David Letterman, ABC said Tuesday, bumping “Nightline” from its longtime perch.

Starting in January, Kimmel’s talk show will shift from 12:05 a.m. Eastern to the 11:35 p.m. Eastern time period long held by the newsmagazine, taking advantage of Kimmel’s ratings growth and the potential for greater ad revenue, the network said.

“Nightline” will move to 12:35 a.m. Eastern. ABC softened the blow for its news division by giving the half-hour show a weekly prime-time hour starting in March, and also will find a home for the ABC News series “What Would You Do?”

The network is rolling the dice, taking ratings winner “Nightline” out of a competitive time slot and putting in yet another talk show. Besides network rivals Leno and Letterman, the hour is home to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, Conan O'Brien on TBS and Chelsea Handler on E! Entertainment.

Kimmel said he is ready for the challenge.

“The most exciting thing is having a bigger audience,” he said. “You work all day on the show and you want as many people to see you as possible.”

Letterman graciously welcomed him to the fray.

“The more the merrier. We like Jimmy, we know he’ll do a fine program, and we wish him well,” he said in a statement.

Kimmel, newly engaged to Molly McNearney, his show’s co-head writer, and set to host next month’s Emmy Awards, is having a run of good fortune. But the droll comedian wouldn’t admit to savoring it.

“My way of thinking is when all these good things happen, it means something terrible will happen,” he said. “I’m cautiously pessimistic.”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Nightline” will switch late-night slots on Jan. 8, and the news magazine will debut in prime time on March 1.

“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,” Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney-ABC Television Group, said in a statement.

Kimmel’s show increased its viewership by 3 percent last season, the only such growth among network late-night talk shows, ABC said.

“Nightline,” however, has been a consistently strong performer in its 11:35 p.m. slot, averaging 3.9 million viewers to best both NBC’s “Tonight Show” with Leno and CBS’ “Late Show” with Letterman.

But there is more advertiser demand for entertainment programming at that hour, Sweeney said, creating the opportunity for “far greater upside over the long term.”

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