LOS ANGELES • Jimmy Kimmel will host the 89th Academy Awards in February, a selection that appears to reflect the increasing influence of the Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network in the Oscar telecast.
The selection was confirmed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, after it was first reported by Variety.
"Yes, I am hosting the Oscars. This is not a prank. And if it is, my revenge on @TheAcademy will be terrible & sweet," Kimmel, 49, tweeted on Monday.
For years, ABC has pressed the Academy to select Kimmel as the host of the Oscars, Hollywood's biggest awards show. ABC, where Jimmy Kimmel Live! has been a late-night staple since 2003, broadcasts the awards show under a long-term contract and has wanted to use the platform to boost Kimmel's profile. Disney executives are convinced that the comedian has the right touch for the job.
The academy, which has final say over the producers and host of the telecast, had politely opted in favour of other choices. But ABC, which pays roughly US$75 million (S$106 million) a year to broadcast the ceremony, received more creative input in the show as part of a contract renegotiation this year.
Kimmel, whose comedy show typically trails The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS in the ratings, is an experienced awards ceremony host. He hosted the Emmy Awards in September and received favourable reviews.
Restoring the Oscar telecast to ratings growth has been a priority for ABC and the academy. The last Academy Awards drew about 34.3 million viewers - one of the smallest Oscar audiences on record.
Kimmel faces an arduous task. Recent hosts (with the notable exception of Ellen DeGeneres) have received severe blowback from critics and viewers. Lifting the ratings will also be difficult without major movie stars, and the coming Oscar race, so far, lacks these.
Kimmel will also face comparisons to Fallon, who is set to host the Golden Globe Awards on Jan 8.
The Academy Awards, to be produced by Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd, will be broadcast live on Feb 26.