Jimmy Kimmel Walks Web Tightrope

Jimmy Kimmel is successfully straddling the worlds of online video and traditional TV, with his popular YouTube channel. But it makes some TV executives nervous, worried that too much online content will lead viewers to drop cable-TV service.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Before celebrities agree to go on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” one question regularly pops up—can the ABC late-night host please include them in a viral Web video?

“I get sort of annoyed,” Mr. Kimmel said with a laugh. Yet the frequent requests are a testament to what may be a new trick in television today. By cultivating a popular presence on YouTube, Mr. Kimmel has managed to assemble an audience online while at the same time increasing his viewership on traditional TV, when most other late-night hosts are losing viewers.

The comic may be an ideal candidate for straddling the worlds of online video and traditional TV. With a raucous mix of goofiness and frat-boy pranks, Mr. Kimmel’s ABC show, which is filmed in Los Angeles, fits the fleeting attention of the pop-culture consumed Web. His clips on YouTube include skits with racy titles and premises, playing up a quirky cast of characters and fake feuds with celebrities like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Even so, his success raises a question that resonates across the TV world: Can success on the Web bite back? It is a delicate balance for TV executives, as they gingerly put content online while worrying about the tipping point where viewers can cut their cable cords and rely on the Web for their video consumption. While Mr. Kimmel is proving there is an audience for his programming online, it isn’t clear yet there is a business model.

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