ABC bets on Jimmy Kimmel for younger viewers

Late-night TV audiences are older than you think. That's 1 reason why the network is shifting programs around.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 8, 2013 10:16AM
Jimmy Kimmel in July 2012 ( Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)Walt Disney's ABC (DIS) rationale for moving "Jimmy Kimmel Live" into the 11:35 p.m. slot Tuesday occupied by "Nightline" is simple: It wants the younger audiences advertisers crave.

According to ABC, the average age for JKL is 53, five years younger than the average age of someone who watches "Nightline." Kimmel's crowd is similar to the one that watches late-night shows. As TV By The Numbers recently noted, the median audience age is 58 for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and 56 for "Late Show With David Letterman."

"Currently, about 34% of JKL's audience falls into the Adult 18-49 age range versus 28% for Nightline," writes ABC spokeswoman Tra-Mi Callahan in an email. "Once the move happens, JKL should still attract a younger audience than Nightline."

For television networks, audience age isn't everything, but it's pretty close. Younger consumers, in theory, haven't cemented their brand loyalties yet and therefore are more easily persuaded to try new products. Advertisers will pay premium rates to reach them.

Kimmel's road ahead isn't easy. For one thing, Walt Disney is under pressure from Wall Street to perform given the recent box-office disappointment of "John Carter." The Burbank, Calif., company also reportedly is considering layoffs to cut costs, according to Reuters. Also,
there are already favorite late-night shows among younger viewers, such as "Conan" on Time Warner's (TWX) TBS, whose average viewer is a sprightly 35. Viewers of "Chelsea Lately" on Comcast's (CMCSA) E! average 37. "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" on Viacom's (VIA) have audience with average ages of 37 and 41, respectively, according to the New York Times.

Unlike these rivals, Kimmel's show is on a broadcast network and has the potential to reach many more viewers than his cable rivals. Disney is right to gamble on Kimmel. Whether  the bet will pay off is this fragmented media universe where media habits are hard to change remains to be seen.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr

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