Swimsuit shakeup

swimsuit-shakeup
David Letterman with Bar Rafaeli in 2009. (AP Photo/CBS, J.P. Flio)
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

Alex Weprin

Follow: feed

There is a new battle brewing in the world of late night TV, and it involves bikinis and supermodels.

Since 2008, the cover and cover model of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has been revealed on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman.” This year, however, the honor will be going to ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.

Kimmel will reveal the cover on Thursday, Feb. 13, and interview the cover model on Monday, Feb. 17, as the issue is released. And in so doing he takes over turf that has for the better part of a decade belonged to his late night hero, Letterman.

The change is a significant one: CBS and SI called the reveal a “tradition” in a press release announcing it last year.

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

One source familiar with the process says that the magazine is always evaluating its options when it comes to the swimsuit reveal, and that this year Kimmel was the best fit. Next year, it could just as easily return to CBS and Letterman. For SI, this makes sense. While Letterman may have been a “tradition,” the magazine should be on the lookout for ways to maximize its buzz.

Kimmel has been arguably the hottest name in late night over the last year, and he regularly outdraws Letterman among younger viewers in the 18-34 and 18-49 demographics. Indeed, a source at a competing network tells Capital that Kimmel’s younger-skewing demographics are a strong reason for making the switch. Representatives for SI and ABC declined to comment. 

NBC’s “Tonight Show” has continued to lead the late-night pack, but with Jay Leno’s departure and the Winter Olympics pre-empting the program this week, that program isn’t an option for SI’s reveal.

For Kimmel, the reveal is a “get” that none of the competition has (even though Letterman used to have it), an important element of the late-night dynamic. It also fills (at least) two segments on the show. Letterman used to have the swimsuit models read his “top 10” list, don’t be surprised if Kimmel makes use of them in a similar capacity.

For SI, Kimmel delivers a different audience and a voice totally unlike Letterman’s, but still accessible to younger men, who make up a significant chunk of the swimsuit issue’s readership. For a publisher looking to make a splash on TV, late night is still the best place to reach male viewers, and younger viewers in particular.

While morning shows and daytime talkers are still “go-to” outlets when a magazine wants to make news (see Time unveiling its “Person of the Year” on NBC’s “Today"), those shows tend to skew female, despite their larger audience.

SI’s swimsuit issue is of vital important to both SI and parent company Time Inc. It is the most widely read, er, viewed, issue of the magazine every year, and generates around 7 percent of SI’s annual revenue