Latenight host inks through 2010

ABC has inked a deal with Jimmy Kimmel that will keep the comic as its latenight host through 2010, according to sources close to the talks.

Pact keeps Kimmel at the Alphabet one year past NBC’s scheduled hand-off from Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien in 2009, positioning ABC to capitalize on the upheaval when Leno retires. Alphabet reps declined comment.

CBS followed a similar strategy when it reupped with David Letterman in a deal that ends in 2010.

Some have speculated that Leno, as the ratings leader, would switch networks, or that NBC would pull out of the deal, triggering a payout to O’Brien.

According to insiders, the deal includes neither a guarantee that Kimmel will eventually get the coveted 11:35 p.m. slot nor a provision for primetime specials.

Pact comes a week after “Jimmy Kimmel Live” attracted its largest aud ever — 2.04 million viewers. Season to date, “Kimmel” is up 12% vs. last year in total viewers and up 17% in adults 18-49 — making it the only latenight talker to post gains in that demo.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” debuted on Jan. 26, 2003. Kimmel and Jill Leiderman exec produce.

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