‘Kimmel’ keeps climbing

Latenight show grows in young viewers

One year after a post-Super Bowl airing helped boost exposure, Jimmy Kimmel’s latenight ABC skein is scoring a few more first downs in the ratings race.

Though “Jimmy Kimmel Live” still has a way to go in catching its rivals, there are encouraging signs that some of the moves designed to boost the comedian’s profile have paid off: His is the only latenight broadcast talkshow to grow its young-adult rating this season.

Through 19 weeks of the 2006-07 campaign, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” averaged 874,000 adults 18-49 and 1.78 million viewers overall — gains of 11% and 17% respectively vs. a year ago at this time. (By comparison, Jay Leno on NBC averages 2.5 million viewers 18-49, David Letterman on CBS draws 1.8 million and Conan O’Brien on NBC bags 1.4 million, with all flat or off slightly year to year).

In fourth quarter 2006, “Kimmel” drew its largest overall aud (1.79 million) during any quarter since its premiere in early 2003, and in one recent stretch the show had improved upon its same performance vs. the corresponding time frame a year ago in 50 out of 52 weeks.

The hourlong “Kimmel,” which follows “Nightline” and starts at 12:05 a.m. (opposite the last half of Leno and Letterman), has attracted more big-name celeb guests of late like George Clooney, Britney Spears, Jennifer Garner and Simon Cowell and musical guests such as Coldplay, Destiny’s Child and Toby Keith.

At least some of the credit for the ratings rise can be attributed to the skedding of Kimmel on the Sundays following the Super Bowl and Academy Awards on ABC a year ago, allowing the show to reach a broader audience. He’ll follow the Oscars telecast again this year.

Show is also taking better advantage of ABC synergy, with eliminated contestants from “Dancing With the Stars” and talent bookings including Teri Hatcher and Matthew Fox. And he hosted the “American Music Awards” on the net, and has been tapped to host its upcoming gamer “Set for Life.”

So, while “Kimmel” still has a ways to go to catch the big boys, improved ratings have to make ABC feel good about its place in latenight, a daypart that will experience plenty of audience churn when Leno and Letterman eventually pass the torch.

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