Without network competition, the Kimmel couch will become valuable real estate for movie stars the week their movies open. Bigger stars should mean larger audiences for the musical acts that close Kimmel's show nightly.
The good news for the music industry is that forward-thinking music programming will dominate late-night TV. The strength of Jimmy Fallon's reputation relies heavily on his show's musical hipness and openness to experimentation, from the then-novel idea of the Roots as a house band to weeklong stints involving Justin Timberlake, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. "Fallon" musical booker Jonathan Cohen has proved particularly prescient in spotting talent on the verge of breakthrough. No other show has as rich a combination of established acts and performers known mostly from blog write-ups and club tours poised for breakthroughs.
Lorne Michaels will continue as producer of the Fallon-led "Tonight Show," and there's little reason to believe the program will make dramatic shifts away from its already solid music imprint. History tells us that networks are skittish about putting on post-midnight humor at 11:30 p.m. When Leno slid behind the desk to replace Johnny Carson in 1992, though, there was little reason to expect "The Tonight Show" to change-and by and large it hasn't. In 2014, the appetite for a new version of "The Tonight Show" is far greater, and it appears Fallon has a chance to deliver strong demo ratings by bringing in edgier artists.
Fallon will have some stiff musical competition from "Letterman," where producer Sheila Rogers has expertly expanded the vision of the show's role in presenting music, whether it's concerts outside the Ed Sullivan Theater and/or online where artist performances extend well beyond the last four minutes of a night's show. CBS recently began offering day-after streams of "Letterman" through the network's app on iPhones and iPads, another asset in the show's booking arsenal.
Kimmel, meanwhile, launched a yearlong deal with Sony Electronics as concert series partner on March 19 with an appearance by T.I. The relationship will include 146 shows that will live on a newly launched Jimmy Kimmel Live Music YouTube channel, which has 1.5 million subscribers and far outdistances his late-night competition. That alone increases Kimmel's value to the music industry as a whole.
Fallon, however, has a history of using social media and the Internet to expand the audience for music, while Kimmel is much more connected to comedy.
Both Fallon and Letterman's shows have done well to extend musical performances onto the Internet. It will be intriguing to see what publicists are able to bargain for once bidding wars start for big-name acts beginning in 2014.