New York Times TV writer Bill Carter reports on "Nightline" in today's paper, stating that "viewership for the news show is up 14 percent in the last six weeks compared with the same week a year ago, and, in the most recent two weeks, the program has frequently grabbed the most viewers of the three shows." After Ted Koppel left the show in 2005, there were plenty of predictions that Jimmy Kimmel would be moved up to 11:30, or that ABC would make some other programming change to put entertainment in that time slot. However, the network stuck with "Nightline," which has resulted in successful counterprogramming.
“I think there’s another big shift happening in late night,” said executive producer James Goldston, referring to Jay Leno's move to 10 PM and Conan O'Brien taking over the "Tonight Show." David Westin, the president of ABC News, said, “When Jay left, some people were freed up to consider other alternatives.”
The "Nightline" folks deny that their ratings success is strictly Michael Jackson-driven, even though news related to the late star was featured on 12 out of 16 shows following his death. Goldston says that since moving to its post-Koppel, three-story-a-night format, "Nightline" retains 54% of the local news audience, up from 39%.
One interesting parenthetical mentioned by Carter:
One factor not often mentioned is that “Nightline” has the advantage of being rated for just a half-hour, while the other two shows run for a full hour at a time of night when many viewers are drifting away to bed as the minutes roll by. The ABC program would win less often if its ratings were compared to the first, much higher-rated half-hours of the entertainment shows.