With ‘Nightline’ Moving to 12:35 a.m., Some ABC News Insiders Believe the Show Is Doomed

Aug 27, 2012  •  Post A Comment

Tom Bettag, the longtime former “Nightline” executive producer, "and other ‘Nightline’ hands lamented what [ABC’s plan to move ‘Nightline’ to 12:35 am. while adding an hour of ‘Nightline’ in prime time on Fridays] would mean to committed news viewers, and made the point that ABC’s plan would inevitably be a hurtful and possibly fatal blow."

So writes our good friend Bill Carter in The New York Times.

The article continues, " ‘Don’t be under any illusions,’ one longtime ABC News executive said, asking not to be identified criticizing management’s decision. ‘They’re going to kill ‘Nightline’ with this move.’

"The separation from late local news viewers will undercut the show’s relevance, the executive said, and the prime-time hour smacks of NBC’s ill-fated decision in 2009 to move Mr. Leno to prime time. ‘Prime-time shows get canceled — very easily,’ the executive said."

Analyzing the ratings potential of the move, Carter writes, "Mr. Kimmel’s audience — about 1.8 million this past season — has grown over the last five years, and he is closer to Mr. Letterman (3.2 million) and Mr. Leno (3.7 million) than he has ever been. But he is still well behind both men, even among the younger viewers most attractive to advertisers, though Mr. Kimmel has a slightly better percentage of those viewers. About 36 percent of Mr. Kimmel’s audience is in the 18 to 49 age group, while for Mr. Letterman it is about 32 percent and for Mr. Leno, about 31 percent.

"’Nightline’ has regularly boasted of having the largest total late-night audience — about 3.9 million this past season. Its numbers are not directly comparable with those of the shows it competes with, however, because ABC manipulates the commercial positions in the 25-minute ‘Nightline’ to limit its rating to about 17 minutes, which maximizes its numbers."

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