Controversy becomes Jimmy Kimmel, though it may give parent company Disney heart palpitations. Turns out, the week of November 18, Jimmy Kimmel Live had its best week in both viewers (2.86 million) and in the demo (1.05 million) since it moved to its earlier 11:35 PM time slot in January to play with the big boys. November 18, maybe not coincidentally, was the deadline for Kimmel’s non-fans to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition mandating White House comment on the ABC program’s Kids Table segment in which Kimmel asked a group of precocious moppets, among other questions, how they thought the United States should repay its $1.3 trillion debt to China. “Kill everyone in China,” giggled little Braxton. After which, all hell broke loose for Disney.
Kimmel had been getting loads of free press since the October 16 broadcast, but it reached the boiling point as the petition neared its required 100,000 signatures. With that threshold easily hit, the White House is now obligated to comment on 6-year-old Braxton’s suggestion. (The White House raised the number of petition signatures required last January, after a petition calling for the deportation of CNN’s British primetime anchor Piers Morgan, and other petitions, very quickly hit the previous 25,000 signature threshold.) Kimmel has apologized for the segment, Disney has apologized for the segment, ABC has expunged the segment from all platforms and even plowed under the Kids Table segment.
Anyway, with media attention to the fracas at a fever, the Emmy-nominated Jimmy Kimmel Live spiked by 15% week-to-week in overall audience the week of November 18 and by nearly 30% to snag its biggest numbers (excluding NBA Finals weeks in June) since he moved in to Jay Leno and David Letterman’s sandbox.
Still, Kimmel ranked No. 2 in the demo – to The Tonight Show, though only 59,000 viewers in the 18-to-49 age bracket separated NBC’s outgoing host and ABC’s controversy embroiled new-ish host. Kimmel continued to edge out Leno in 18-34 – by 9% that week.
In fairness, controversy was not all that fueled JKL’s really good week. Monday was Kimmel’s most-watched night, by a hefty margin, with 3.18 million tuned in. Not coincidentally, that was the night of the Dancing With the Stars semi-finals. Kimmel’s show, like ABC’s morning infotainment program Good Morning America, often enjoys ratings spikes with Dancing cast-off interviews, etc. – in case you’re wondering why ABC tries so hard to keep Dancing With the Stars around, despite that primetime franchise’s older skew. Also not coincidentally, Barbara Walters got herself booked as the guest on JKL that night, which also might help account for Monday achieving Kimmel’s biggest crowd of that week, but only his fourth-best demo showing of the five-night week. JKL did its biggest demo number the next night – 1.18 million – with Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s Elizabeth Banks guesting and Daughtry performing.