It's fast becoming clear that the key to winning the cutthroat, ego-filled battleground for late-night TV isn't about winning viewers looking for the next Johnny Carson, but winning younger demographics who don't even know who Carson is .
So Jimmy Kimmel just might be onto something with his ABC show "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Consider the willingness of teen idol Justin Bieber -- who has 9.7 million Twitter followers tracking his every move, and is said to account for 3% of overall Twitter traffic -- to play along with a skit on the show about having his iconic mop shaved off.
According to Horizon Media, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" now averages 1.7 million viewers, and for events such as his post-Academy awards show, that number has shot up to more than 4 million eyeballs. But more important, Mr. Kimmel's viewers have a median age of 51.5, compared with David Letterman's 55.5 and Jay Leno's 56. Mr. Kimmel is now nipping at the heels of late-night newcomer Jimmy Fallon , whose median age viewer is just under 50.
For a host on a network with no history of late-night programming, and one who has a challenging time slot -- hammocked between the shows that begin at 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., and with ABC's "Nightline" as a lead-in -- Mr. Kimmel has shown he has staying power. And where he seems to be ahead of the pack is his ability to stretch the show's brand beyond broadcast.
"He's done a great job," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research at Horizon. "He made a name for himself on the 'Man Show' and 'Win Ben Stein's Money,' and has really paid his dues. ABC and Disney have to be very happy with him … considering that ABC never really had a [late-night] presence, and he's coming out of news and has an odd hour compared to his viewers," Mr. Adgate said. "It's really appointment viewing. He hasn't had it as easy as his competitors and he is scathingly funny," he said, adding that "a lot of the stuff he does is viral and can be watched over and over again."
When Mr. Kimmel teamed up with rapper Drake to do a song about celebrities on Twitter called "Tweet Tweet," it garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube. And another recent breakout video written and created by the show's staff, in which crooner Josh Groban sings Kanye West's ridiculous Twitter ramblings, pulled more than 4 million views.
The success of such original content prompted the "Kimmel" show to partner with Mediafly to create a mobile app that launched during the "Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Academy Awards" special. The app allows iPhone and iPad users to access videos, music performances and interviews with A-List guests and syncs up with the show's official YouTube Channel. The channel has gained more than 284 million total video views since its launch in January 2009.
"'JKL' has been active in embracing new media," Danielle Greene, ABC's VP of late night, told Ad Age . "These platforms, plus the show's strong creative content, Jimmy's unique perspective on newsworthy events and his great guests, have all contributed to making the show a trailblazer in the late-night arena. Advertisers have responded to our audience reach and our live commercials, which allow customized concepts that stand out and connect in unique ways with our audience."