Jimmy Kimmel drew strong ratings in his new 11:35 time slot, partially helped by the appearance of actress Jennifer Aniston who smashed his desk with a sledgehammer and cut his hair. One report claimed that Kimmel bested both Letterman and Leno in his new time slot. But, another report by ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT only had Kimmel beating David Letterman, but not Jay Leno. Normally, NIGHTLINE outdraws both Letterman and Leno in the ratings, so at best, Jimmy Kimmel merely held up the same ratings for one night. Whether, he can repeat this feat on a nightly basic remains to be seen.
Jay Leno’s contract was set to expire in 2014. But, despite pay cuts as well as staffing cuts, Leno signed on in the last few days to extend his contract beyond 2014. ABC had hoped to position Jimmy Kimmel in the driver’s seat, with the strong ratings that NIGHTLINE had traditionally brought in, to strong compete with both Leno and Letterman. The move was something of a risk for ABC, because NIGHTLINE has maintained strong ratings ever since it debuted as a news special during the Iranian hostage crisis during the Jimmy Carter Administration in 1980, and gained enough of a nightly audience to become regular programming.
NBC views Jimmy Kimmel has having more appeal with younger audiences that either Leno or Letterman, as both are in their 60’s, and Kimmel is only 45 by comparison. But, Kimmel is also splitting his younger audience demographic with John Stewart and Stephen Colbert as well as Conan O’Brien on cable TV. Whether there is enough of a slice of pie for everyone here is a big question.