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Kimmel Ready for Primetime

ABC is planning a Jimmy Kimmel Live primetime special in September and may take the late-night program on the road during November sweeps as it tries to boost the audience for the growing show.

"I love the show," says ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson. "But we have to get the word out some more and find different ways to do so. It’s been a little bit invisible."

The move suggests a renewed commitment by ABC to back the show, which the network hopes will help it establish a true late-night franchise in advance of a shakeup in 2009, when Conan O’Brien’s is scheduled to replace Jay Leno on NBC’s Tonight Show.

The primetime special is tentatively slotted for Wednesday, Sept. 13 at
10 p.m. ET. The original plan was that it would follow a Dancing With the Stars results show at 8 and the season finale of music reality show The One at 9. But with The One off to a sluggish start (it debuted with a minuscule 1.1 rating/3 share in the 18-49 demo), those plans could change.

"We want to find a good spot," McPherson says. "If we are going to do a primetime special, I don’t want to throw it away. So wherever it goes, it’s going to get a good lead-in."


is on an upswing in the ratings. The 2005-06 season saw a 17% jump in its adult 18-49 numbers and a 6% bump in overall audience. The show also recently added Late Show With David Letterman alum Jill Leiderman as executive producer.

"It was kind of an underground show, and as with any new show, it takes a while to get up to speed," McPherson says. "We went through a couple of showrunners, but I really like the team we have in place."

ABC is also considering sending the show on the road during sweeps, a tactic it used when Kimmel aired live from Detroit the week leading up to this year’s Super Bowl.

ABC’s entertainment side covets the 11:35 slot currently held by Nightline. The news program just had its best May sweep since 2004 but is not a compatible lead-in to Kimmel.

"The Nightline lead-in is a tough thing to deal with," McPherson admits.