Let the late-night fights begin

Jimmy Kimmel Live gets upgraded to 10:35 p.m. Central to take on Leno and Letterman; Nightline to move an hour later

It’s on.

Jimmy Kimmel – once known for co-hosting a show featuring women jumping up and down on trampolines – has landed the plum post-late local news slot on ABC effective January 8, replacing Nightline, which has held the 10:35 p.m. (CT) slot for thirty-three years.

The time period swap is packaged as part of a new deal Kimmel signed to stay with ABC until 2015.

The move places Jimmy Kimmel Live head-to-head against Jay Leno and David Letterman – not to mention competing against Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, TBS’ Conan, and in the Chicago area, Michael Essany’s local late-night show (which premieres September 17) and Arsenio Hall’s new syndicated late-night talker, which debuts in September 2013.

As for Nightline, the series moves to 11:35 p.m., placing it after Kimmel’s show. However, Nightline gets a weekly hour-long time slot on Friday nights, marking the first time the news show has aired regularly in primetime.

ABC made the switch because of the increases demand by advertisers for entertainment programming in late night, particularly after late local news.

Kimmel is a rising star in Hollywood, as he’s being tapped to host the Emmy Awards on ABC next month. The former morning radio producer-turned-stand up comic was Ben Stein’s sidekick on Win Ben Stein’s Money on Comedy Central and also was co-host of the net’s Man Show with Adam Carolla. Kimmel appeared in taped segments for Fox’s NFL pre-game show from 1999-2002, making predictions (often wrong) on games. On January 26, 2003, Kimmel became ABC’s first late-night since Rick Dees helmed Into The Night in 1990-91.

Kimmel also became a viral-video sensation in 2008 (on the wrong end) as then-girlfriend Sarah Silverman appeared on his show in a short video segment with Matt Damon titled “I’m F**king Matt Damon”. Believe it or not, the music video won a Creative Arts Emmy.

Ratings for Kimmel have increased in the past year – thanks in part to the upgrade the show received in Chicago after The Oprah Winfrey Show left the airwaves. ABC-owned WLS-TV delayed Kimmel until 12:05 a.m. for years to accommodate a same-day repeat of Oprah, which has occupied the time slot since 1996. On September 12, 2011, Kimmel finally moved to 11:00 pm slot.

Meanwhile, its an end of an era for Nightline, which started as a series of nightly specials hosted by Ted Koppel in 1979 on the Iran hostage crisis titled America Held Hostage: Day 2 (3, 4, etc.). After Koppel stepped down on November 22, 2005 after 26 years, Nightline’s format changed, from a single-story format per episode to three, with co-hosts Martin Bashir (later replaced by former WGN-TV anchor/reporter Bill Weir), Terry Moran, and Cynthia McFadden, often focusing on less-serious topics.

Nightline has always done well in Chicago. With a few exceptions, the newsmagazine has dominated the local ratings in the Windy City, finishing first in its time slot for decades.

On his final night, Koppel said the following:

“You’ve always been very nice to me, so give this new anchor team for “Nightline” a fair break. If you don’t, I promise you the network will just put another comedy show in this time slot. Then you’ll be sorry. And that’s our report for tonight, I’m Ted Koppel in Washington and from all of us here at ABC News, good night.

And this is what ABC did a little over seven years later.

Thought: For those who think this is a blow to serious journalism, keep in mind Nightline stopped doing exactly that for the most part years ago – remember those expanded editions of the show devoted to topics such as race, politics, and education? Those went away after Koppel left and the format was revamped. Nightline clearly jumped the shark when the show started doing ET-like stories on Jennifer Lopez and Snooki – sadly, Nightline is no longer relevant. On the other hand, Jimmy Kimmel to 10:35 p.m. is a good move – his show skews much younger than Leno and Letterman, despite attracting fewer viewers. Kimmel’s show won’t effect the two older hosts, but could cause trouble for others, particularly Stephen Colbert, Arsenio Hall, and locally, Michael Essany – who’ll need a herculean effort to pull this Chicago-based talk show off, given the ultra-weak outlet he’s on – assuming his show lasts that long.

While Chicagoans – after years of waiting until midnight to watch Jimmy Kimmel Live – will get to see his show at 10:35 p.m. in January, other areas might not be lucky:

Milwaukee and San Antonio. Hearst’s WISN-TV and Post-Newsweek’s KSAT have a one-hour 10 p.m. newscast, meaning Kimmel is being slotted at 11 p.m. come January.

Kansas City. Another Hearst-owned station, KMBC has reruns of Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory from 10:35 p.m.-11:35 p.m., delaying Nightline an hour and pushing Kimmel to midnight. In January, Kimmel moves to 11:35 p.m.

Minneapolis-St. Paul. KSTP has Nightline sandwiched between two newscasts, at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. (really, do we need an 11 p.m. news show in the Central time zone? Give me a break!) It is not known where Kimmel’s show will land – it currently runs at 11:35 p.m.

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