Scott D. Pierce: Change is hard for Kimmel but it's good
Given the ratings success he's experiencing in his new time slot, it might come as some surprise that Jimmy Kimmel is struggling a bit.
From Jan. 8-11, the first four days of his show airing at 10:35 p.m. MT, Kimmel averaged 3.009 million viewers his best numbers ever nearly matching David Letterman (3.137 million) and within range of Jay Leno (3.525 million). He tied Leno for first place among viewers 18-49.
It's not that he's complaining. It's just that, after a decade airing at 12:05 a.m. Eastern/Pacific and 11:05 p.m. Central/Mountain in most of the country, Kimmel was in a comfortable groove. "Change is hard for me," he said in the green room at his studio on Hollywood Boulevard. "I'm working on it. I'll get used to it, eventually."
"It does feel a little bit different because of the focus on us right now," he said. "And, also, the new format is something that takes a little bit of getting used to. We structure the show a little bit differently."
The biggest change is that Kimmel used to do a much longer opening monologue. Now he does a shorter bit, followed by a commercial, followed by a second comedy bit.
"It's just spaced out a little bit more," Kimmel said. "You really get used to doing a certain thing, and then when it changes, it's hard."
Change didn't prove to be nearly as difficult for Richard Doutre Jones, the new general manager of KTVX-Channel 4. He made a huge change at the ABC affiliate, which never aired Kimmel at 11:05 a.m., even, delaying the show to 12:05 a.m.
"My very first day as GM last Monday, I made the decision to air in pattern 'Jimmy' and 'Nightline,' " he said.
Kimmel is grateful. There are more viewers watching TV at 10:30/11:35 p.m., so if his show is delayed, it is harder to compete with Leno and Letterman.
"There aren't many stations delaying us," Kimmel said. "I think it's about 5 percent of the country. But it does affect the numbers. So if anyone has any incriminating photographs, I'd appreciate it."
Whew! Kimmel isn't coming after KTVX's new general manager.
It's a symbiotic relationship among networks, their affiliates and their shows. The best thing that could happen for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" would be if every ABC station across the country were a ratings powerhouse with its late news.
At KTVX, they're beginning a rebuilding project to climb out of fourth place.
"Lead-in is a big deal," Kimmel said. "But it's not like, 'Oh, they better get their act together.' They're trying just as hard as we are, I'm sure."
And "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is proof positive that a TV show can change and grow. Ten years ago, Kimmel's show was barely an afterthought in the late-night wars; today, he's a major player.
"I was very happy to be in my time slot for 10 years because it allowed me the time to develop the show," Kimmel said.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.