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Final 11:35 ‘Nightline’ Is Tonight

It’s not very often a number show is moved out of its timeslot by network execs, but that’s what’s happening at ABC as “Nightline” moves from 11:35pm to 12:35am beginning tomorrow night making room for “Jimmey Kimmel Live” after the late local news.

“Nightline” was born out of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The temporary program “America Held Hostage: The Iran Crisis” launched November 8, 1979 — four days after the Americans were taken. Frank Reynolds was the original anchor. Ted Koppel, then ABC’s chief diplomatic correspondent, was a contributing reporter and would take over anchoring duties in March 1980 when the show became known as “Nightline.”

“[Former ABC News president] Roone [Arledge] had decided a long time before that any time a big news story [broke], ABC News was going to do a special broadcast at 11:30 at night,” Koppel told TVNewser in 2009. “And one day, it was his dream that there’d be a story that had such legs to it, that was so enduring, that he would actually be able to seize the time period.”

Koppel would anchor the program for 25 years, until late 2005. After Koppel left, the show began a three-anchor format with Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden and Martin Bashir, later replaced by Bill Weir, with a much — in Koppel’s words — “frothier” format. Indeed, tonight’s final 11:35 show includes Barbara Walters‘ sitdown with Mariah Carey. Tomorrow’s first show at 12:35 includes McFadden’s sitdown with the stars of Django Unchained.

But the formula worked. “Nightline” has been the #1 late night show for the last three seasons.

Still, with the move to even later night, “Nightline” producers will be as busy as ever as the network has promised an hour in primetime every week beginning Friday, March 1.

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