Kimmel-Affleck video draws millions of viewers

Once you’ve told the world you’re slapping skin with Ben Affleck, where do you go from there?

Jimmy Kimmel’s response to girlfriend Sarah Silverman’s spoof about having her way with Matt Damon — “On the floor, on a towel by the door … up against the minibar” — have turned the couple into an Internet sensation.

“Sarah’s was a complete surprise and I didn’t even think of responding,” Kimmel says. “Then, the opportunity to (spoof about having sex with) Ben Affleck was too good to pass up.”

While Kimmel didn’t plan on the videos becoming promotional tools for the show, that’s exactly what happened. There were more than 100 versions of the Affleck skit posted right away, and it garnered over 100 million views, giving “Live” huge amounts of publicity. And not only did Kimmel’s visibility rise with young viewers, so did his Nielsen ratings.

In comparing the weekly averages of the show post-Affleck to the weekly averages pre-Affleck, there was a 15% increase in total viewers (1.66 million vs. 1.45 million) and 20% in the 18-49 demo, with the rating and share increasing to 0.6/3 vs. 0.5/2. There was even an immediate afterglow effect, with the telecast Feb. 25 — the next airing after the Affleck skit — drawing the largest audience for any latenight telecast since Nov. 27, 2007, according to ABC.

“There’s clear evidence that YouTube is used to promote or market, whether you want to sell an album or drive traffic to a small movie like ‘Juno.’ Networks use YouTube to drive traffic to their programs. That’s a given,” says YouTube spokeswoman Julie Supan. “The cool thing is that ABC didn’t pull the video (which they could have done because of copyright laws). They are allowing it to remain on the Internet and letting it flow, so that’s proof that (YouTube) gives them promotional value.”

Hurts or helps?

With the success of these two videos, you would think there would be the urge to play some one-upmanship among latenight hosts to put the most outrageous clips on the Internet, but Kimmel isn’t sure a slew of YouTube clips are the best way for his show to draw a viewing audience.

“I didn’t do the video so that it would land on YouTube. We did it because it was funny and worked with the show,” Kimmel says. “Sometimes I think it hurts as much as it helps. With YouTube, there’s no incentive to watch a show as it happens. There’s no longer anything on TV that you’ll miss if you don’t tune in. Viewers don’t have to stay up and watch. They can get all the best stuff the next day on YouTube.”

There’s no doubt that Internet users — especially those that can’t or won’t stay up past midnight — are drawn to the latenight talkshow clips. Currently, 12 of the top 20 most viewed CBS YouTube videos out of nearly 6,000 videos in the catalog are from either “Late Show With David Letterman” or the “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.”

“YouTube is a reflection of popular culture,” Supan says. “At the end of the day, the clips users send are the best guide of what will rise up in the public consciousness.”

Even “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” producer Jason Schrift says he’s amazed at all the people flocking to YouTube.

“It’s so surreal to me that Harrison Ford had seen Sarah’s video on YouTube,” Shrift says. “I mean, Harrison Ford watches videos on YouTube.”

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