The Late Night wars are about to get more crowded. Since it debuted in 2003, ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!‘ has aired at midnight, a half-hour after both ‘The Tonight Show‘ and ‘The Late Show with David Letterman.’ But ABC has announced that starting in January, ‘Jimmy Kimmel’ will move to 11:35pm and compete directly with both Leno and Letterman.

ABC has long tried to groom their own talk show host to compete with mainstays Leno and Letterman. The problem they always had was that news magazine ‘Nightline’ was a mainstay at 11:35pm and network affiliates were loathe to change that. But with ‘The Tonight Show’ downsizing its staff and budget and Letterman on the verge of retirement, ABC felt now was the time to make the move and will have Kimmel running with the big dogs.

Said Anne Sweeney, president of ABC, of the move:

It’s a huge move. This is Jimmy’s moment. It’s a culmination for him. We are looking at a landscape with two entrenched guys who are starting to fade. Their audiences are diminishing and Jimmy, who has now been on 10 years, is continuing to grow.

For his part, Kimmel admits it’s a “bit scary” to go up against Leno, with whom he is friendly, and Letterman, who he openly idolizes.

The move comes as Kimmel is prepping to host the upcoming Emmy Awards and also has ABC pushing him as a contender to host their Oscar telecast in 2013.

As for ‘Nightline,’ the Ted Koppel hosted program will air at 12:35am starting in 2013 with a new Friday night telecast added at 9pm.

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