x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

With new time slot, Jimmy Kimmel will take on Leno and Letterman

"I'm cautiously pessimistic," says the comedian whose show will take Nightline's spot.

Jimmy Kimmel Live is moving into the thick of the late-night fight against Jay Leno and David Letterman. Starting in January, Kimmel's talk show will take the 11.35pm time period long held by the news programme Nightline, leveraging Kimmel's ratings growth.

Besides his network rivals Leno and Letterman, the hour is home to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, Conan O'Brien on TBS and Chelsea Handler on E! Entertainment.

Kimmel said he is ready for the challenge. "The most exciting thing is having a bigger audience," he said. "You work all day on the show and you want as many people to see you as possible."

Letterman graciously welcomed him to the fray. "The more the merrier. We like Jimmy, we know he'll do a fine programme and we wish him well," he said in a statement.

Kimmel, newly engaged to Molly McNearney, his show's co-head writer, and set to host next month's Emmy Awards, seems to be having a run of good fortune. But the droll comedian sees it differently. "My way of thinking is, when all these good things happen, it means something terrible will happen," he said. "I'm cautiously pessimistic."

Kimmel invoked the memory of Conan O'Brien's ill-fated move to Tonight at NBC. It ended when the network tried to return the slot to Leno; O'Brien bolted to a new show at TBS and Leno reclaimed Tonight.

"I was sceptical," Kimmel said, dryly. "You know how this goes in late-night television. Sometimes they tell you you're on at 11.30 and sometimes it doesn't work out. But I think it will work out."

He doesn't expect to make any changes in the show for the new time slot.

"I may get a tummy tuck," he said.