ABC keeps Jimmy Kimmel talking

'Live' to continue through 2010

ABC is extending its option with latenight host Jimmy Kimmel by another year, keeping him at the network through at least 2010.

Decision to exercise an early extension comes as Kimmel has received positive attention for his “Jimmy Kimmel Live Game Night” series of post-NBA Finals specials, which included a now-famous fist bump Sunday with presidential candidate Barack Obama. Rival candidate John McCain was scheduled to appear on Kimmel’s show following Tuesday’s NBA game.

Those “Game Night” specials have averaged 3 million viewers, giving the show a bit more exposure than its usual aud.

Kimmel also scored quite a bit of attention earlier this year thanks to the show’s “I’m Fucking Matt Damon” video short, featuring Kimmel girlfriend Sarah Silverman — and his response, “I’m Fucking Ben Affleck.”

Like all latenight talkers, “Kimmel” took a ratings hit this season — blamed on the writers strike. But “Kimmel” took less of a hit than his rivals. Show averaged 1.7 million viewers in the just-completed TV season, down just 4% from the year before (1.8 million). All other latenight talkers suffered double-digit declines.

Also, “Kimmel” beat CBS’ “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” for the first time in viewers (by a slim margin — 1.727 million vs. 1.725 million) and came within 184,000 viewers of NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien (1.727 million vs. 1.911 million).

Kimmel and Jill Leiderman exec produce “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which comes from Jackhole Industries and ABC Studios. Talker bowed in January 2003.

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