ABC is moving Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show into head-to-head competition with Jay Leno and David Letterman. "Nightline" flips back an hour to 12:35 a.m., a big disappointment to the news types. The changes take effect in January, and "Nightline" will also get an hour of primetime every Friday. Bill Carter at the New York Times:
ABC announced the move Tuesday, framing it as a bold effort to seize leadership in late-night entertainment.
ABC has pointed to its leadership in ratings over both Mr. Letterman on CBS and Mr. Leno on NBC’s “Tonight” show, but that has been with the news program “Nightline.” ABC’s management has for years tried to replace that program with an entertainment show because of the possibility to increase revenue in the time period....
Anne Sweeney, the president of Disney/ABC, said: “It’s a huge move. This is Jimmy’s moment. It’s a culmination for him. We are looking at a landscape with two entrenched guys who are starting to fade. Their audiences are diminishing and Jimmy, who has now been on 10 years, is continuing to grow.”
News division president Ben Sherwood's note to the staff didn't sound very excited.
ABC believes it has a stronger growth opportunity in late night if “Jimmy Kimmel Live” precedes “Nightline,” so starting Jan. 8, “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....
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 prime time, 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”.
Jimmy Kimmel Live banner on the El Capitan Theatre, where the show is taped on Hollywood Boulevard