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‘Nightline’ gets stay of execution, but for how long?

This post has been corrected. See below for details.

ABC News executives are breathing a sigh of relief that “Nightline” wasn’t canceled outright even though the network is moving Jimmy Kimmel into its time slot

However, it is probably only a stay of execution for the venerable newsmagazine show.

In January, ABC is shifting “Nightline” from its longtime home of 11:35 p.m. to an hour later, at 12:35 a.m., so “Jimmy Kimmel Live” -- which had started at midnight -- can compete head-to-head with CBS’ David Letterman and NBC’s Jay Leno.

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While that beats getting canceled, ABC will probably want to a develop either another talk show or some sort of comedy program to follow Kimmel at 12:35. While airing “Nightline” after local news made sense, it is not an ideal lead-out for Kimmel’s programming.

So why not just kill “Nightline” now?

Because then ABC would likely have to give that half-hour back to its affiliates, which it doesn’t want to do. It’s better for the network to hold on to the time slot and try to develop a new franchise than to give up on that slot entirely.

While “Nightline” is profitable, moving it to a later time slot will make it harder for the show to remain a money maker. After all, there will be fewer viewers at 12:35 a.m. than there are at 11:35 p.m. That means fewer ad dollars too and sustaining profitability is suddenly far from certain.

An entertainment show in that time slot could also struggle, but if it can attract a younger crowd, then the commercial value will increase. In any case, it’s a bet ABC is willing to make.

A previous version of this post incorrectly said “Nightline” was expanding to an hour when it moves to 12:35 a.m. It will remain a half-hour broadcast.

ALSO:

ABC moving Kimmel to 11:35 p.m.

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Comcast unfairly scapegoated for cuts at ‘Tonight’

The time is right for Kimmel to take on Leno and Letterman

Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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