NEW YORK >> The Oscars finally have a host: Jimmy Kimmel will emcee the 89th Academy Awards.
The late-night host will be presiding over the ceremony for the first time. Kimmel has been a regular awards host, having twice previously hosted the Emmy Awards (including its broadcast in September) and once led ESPN’s ESPY Awards.
The selection of Kimmel gives ABC, home of the Oscars telecast, the choice the network had long sought. His “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” has previously followed ABC’s Oscar broadcast. The network also has new muscle to flex; it signed a deal with the Academy of Motion Pictures in August to remain the Oscar broadcast home until 2028.
“Yes, I am hosting the Oscars,” Kimmel said on Twitter. “This is not a prank. And if it is, my revenge on the academy will be terrible and sweet.”
The academy waited much later than usual to name a host for the Feb. 26 ceremony. This year’s show is being produced by veteran producer Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd, president of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s production company, Pearl Street Films. This is also their first time producing the Oscars.
The lengthy search has perhaps been a product of increasing pressure on the broadcast. Last year’s show was hosted by Chris Rock and was dominated by backlash over its second straight year of all-white acting nominees. Its 34.3 million viewers marked an 11-year low for the telecast.
Whether Kimmel can spark a comeback will be a considerable test for the 49-year-old comedian. His Emmy Awards broadcast on ABC drew a mere 11.3 million viewers, a new low.
But ABC Television Group chief Ben Sherwood publicly lobbied for Kimmel. In September he said the network was “very hopeful that Jimmy will get” the Oscar hosting gig and that he had “elevated” the Emmys.
This year’s Oscar favorites don’t appear to feature the kind of big, popular films that can drive audiences to watch the awards. The top contenders — “Moonlight,” ”La La Land” and “Manchester by the Sea” — have together totaled less than $15 million at the box office, though “La La Land” is yet to open.