After airing at midnight for a decade, Jimmy Kimmel Live began running at 11:35 last night for the first time. With Jimmy Kimmel now squaring off directly with rivals Jay Leno and David Letterman, it looks like he won the first bout. These are still early ratings, but, according to The Wall Street Journal, Kimmel’s show was viewed in 2.8% of households. Leno and Letterman fell closely behind with 2.7% and 2.4 %, respectively. It’s expected that Kimmel’s first show would score high and the audience will probably fall off significantly after this, but it’s still great news for Kimmel, the show, and ABC. The last late night host to make a debut at 11:35 was Conan O’Brien at the start of his ill-fated Tonight Show stint in 2009, and he drew a big audience at first also before his numbers drastically decreased. Kimmel is 45 and a two decades younger than Letterman, 65, or Leno, 62, and his success could indicate a generational shift in the late night world. The NY Daily News reported last month that NBC is exploring the option of replacing Jay Leno with heir to the throne Jimmy Fallon, who’s 38. If Jimmy Kimmel continues to top Leno and Letterman in the ratings, you can expect NBC to try to make that move a hell of a lot sooner.
UPDATE 1/9, 4PM EST: Final ratings are in, and it looks like Kimmel beat Letterman but narrowly lost to Leno.