Jeff Horwich: Late night TV is about to go where it’s never gone before. ABC says starting in 2013 it’s moving “Jimmy Kimmel Live” a half hour earlier, to compete head-to-head with Letterman and Leno. For decades that slot on ABC has been held by “Nightline.” The news show will move to Kimmel’s old, later slot — though there will be a new Nightline primetime show as a sort of consolation prize.
For more on the move we’ve got Marc Berman, editor-in-chief at TV Media Insights. Good to talk with you.
Marc Berman: Nice to be here.
Horwich: “Jimmy Kimmel Live” has been on, what, almost ten years now. What is it that makes ABC think that he’s the guy to take on late-night icons?
Berman: He’s been on ABC since January 2003. His ratings are up year-to-year; he’s up 3 percent in total viewers, which is unusual in this landscape, because most shows are down. He has a young skew, and ABC is hoping to bring in younger viewers earlier into the evening and late night.
Horwich: What do you think — should Leno and Letterman be worried about him?
Berman: I wouldn’t lose any sleep, however, he is an established presence on ABC. I always felt that he was hindered airing out of “Nightline,” because that’s a completely different audience than “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” And I think moving him up a half hour is a very good idea. I think he’ll bring in more viewers, and it will help ABC in that day part.
Horwich: The big loser here perhaps is “Nightline,” but “Nightline,” as I understand it, was actually beating Letterman and Leno in the ratings for its half hour. What’s going on — why move “Nightline?”
Berman: You know, obviously, “Nightline” is driven by what’s happening in the news. So if there’s a big new item, “Nightline’s” going to get a tweak in the ratings. “Nightline” on many occasions delivered more viewers than Leno and Letterman, but it wasn’t beating them in the younger demographics. The networks only care about the younger demographics; they don’t care about 50 plus.
Horwich: And the younger demographic — as is so often the case in these situations — means more ad revenue. Is that right?
Berman: Yes, absolutely. It’s all about the ad revenue. The networks care about the younger viewers; Kimmel’s younger skewing than “Nightline,” and it does make sense to move him up a half hour. It absolutely makes sense, because again, I always personally felt that airing out of “Nightline” was not the smartest fit.
Horwich: Does this move ultimately have much to say about our evolving cultural preference for jokes and entertainment over hard news?
Berman: Oh, absolutely. And I think the networks, unfortunately — and I think they’re very foolish about this — they don’t care. Once you turn the big 5-0, they don’t care about you anymore. I think that’s a big mistake, because I think the people that are older — at least the people, hopefully in my case — once you’re older, you’ll have money to spend suddenly. And advertisers should be trying to reach you.
But you know, as it stands, networks, they want entertainment. They want to attract younger viewers. These kinds of talk shows are the shows that bring in the younger viewers, not news driven shows. Anything that’s of a news nature brings in an older audience.
Horwich: Marc Berman, at TV Media Insights. Thanks a lot.
Berman: My pleasure.
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