Jimmy Kimmel beats Letterman the first night the two are paired up in the same timeslot, setting the stage for what could become a changing of the guard.
ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel Live from 12 am to 11:35 pm in the hopes of reaching a broader audience, and at least for the first night it worked. Kimmel beat David Letterman and came within a hair of beating Leno as well, The Associated Press noted.
Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live drew in close to 3 million viewers, just 177,000 behind Leno and the Tonight Show. Kimmel drew 115,000 more viewers than Letterman and beat out his average audience at the later timeslot by 59 percent.
Whether Kimmel beats Letterman consistently in audience or not, the ABC host has established his place among the upper echelon of late night hosts.
His debut also comes as a more bitter rivalry is forming with Jay Leno. Kimmel has been vocal in his criticism of Leno, beginning with Leno’s snub of Conan O’Brien in 2009. Conan had been named the successor to Leno, but when the time came to retire, Jay instead took his show to 10 pm and eventually angled to get the Tonight Show back from Conan.
Jimmy Kimmel kept up the harsh rhetoric this week with an interview in Rolling Stone in which he bashed Leno. Though he admitted that Leno is talented, Kimmel said he does not respect for how he uses that talent.
Kimmel said: “As a comedian, you can’t not have disdain for what he’s done: He totally sold out … He was a master chef who opened a Burger King.”
Kimmel was later quoted by the New York Daily News as saying good things about both David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon, whom he called a worth competitor.
“People are going to compare me and him for years to come – we’re being positioned as the Leno and Letterman of the next round,” Kimmel said of his relationship to Fallon, hinting at a changing of the guard away from the longtime hosts.
And if Kimmel beats Letterman in ratings consistently, that generational change could soon be complete.