For years now there have been rumors that ABC would swap “Nightline” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” In 2013, it will finally happen. The reason is very simple: Jimmy Kimmel has wanted the 11:35 PM timeslot pretty much since he started at the network, and ABC finally decided to bet on him rather than the long-running ABC News program.
Two sources close to Kimmel tell me that the change came as a direct result of Kimmel getting a new, long-term contract extension at ABC. Kimmel demanded 11:35, or said he would walk, and ABC acquiesced. When Kimmel last signed a new contract with ABC in late 2010, ABC cut “Nightline” by five minutes to make room for Kimmel. This was the next logical step.
While “Nightline” is a very successful program both editorially and financially (ABC holds it up internally as one to emulate), the network simply bet that it could make more money in the long-term from Kimmel at 11:30 than it could from “Nightline.”
The move makes sense for Kimmel, who can now compete head to head with Jay Leno and David Letterman in a late night environment more competitive than ever. For ABC, if Kimmel succeeds in the timeslot he will bring in “substantially” more revenue that “Nightline” did, a source explains.
Inside ABC News, staffers are–understandably–said to be “devastated” by the decision, according to someone close to the program. ABC News president Ben Sherwood is holding meetings with staff this afternoon to try and answer questions about the move.
ABC News is arguing that the new deal for “Nightline” is a positive. The program is actually expanding in late night (to the full half hour it used to have until last year) and that it will be getting an hour a week in primetime starting in March: