NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a late night riff on David and Goliath, TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel beat out veteran David Letterman and nearly caught ratings champion Jay Leno with his first show in their time slot.
The move from midnight to 11:35 p.m., which took effect on Tuesday, paid off big for ABC. "Jimmy Kimmel Live," with guest Jennifer Aniston, attracted 3.1 million viewers, the second-highest number ever for the 10-year-old show and a 59 percent increase over its usual audience, according to ratings data on Wednesday.
Leno's "Tonight Show" on NBC had 3.3 million total viewers, while Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS was watched by 2.9 million Americans.
In the cherished 18-49 demographic, Kimmel trounced Letterman by 30 percent, with 887,000 versus 683,000 viewers.
"I am now 25 minutes closer to my lifelong dream of co-hosting 'The View,'" Kimmel quipped on Tuesday about his show's earlier time slot, referring to the long-running, popular daytime talk show hosted by Barbara Walters.
"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" has led the late-night broadcast comedy race with 3.4 million viewers on average, according to Nielsen. "The Late Show with David Letterman" pulls in 3 million, while "Jimmy Kimmel Live" has grabbed 1.9 million in its former midnight time slot.
At 45, Kimmel is two decades younger than Leno, 62, and Letterman, 65.
ABC hopes that fact, coupled with his younger, tech-savvy audience, will make his show more appealing to advertisers. The network's marketing blitz features ads with the tagline: "Younger. Smarter. Funnier. Earlier."
Kimmel has been making the media interview rounds and exposed his butt crack for a Rolling Stone magazine cover story.
ABC television is a unit of Walt Disney Co..
(Reporting by Chris Michaud editing by Jill Serjeant)