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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A day after NBC late-night TV hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien said they would return to the airwaves despite the Hollywood writers strike, ABC rival Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday he would follow them across picket lines.
Like his NBC counterparts, the host "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" plans to resume fresh broadcasts on January 2 without staff writers, who presumably will still be on strike at that point, to put the rest of his production crew back to work.
"Though it makes me sick to do so without my writers, there are more than a hundred people whose financial well-being depends on our show," Kimmel said in a statement.
Kimmel and his late-night peers on other networks have been in reruns since the Writers Guild of America launched its walkout against major studios on November 5, in a dispute that hinges on how writers are paid for their work on the Internet.
Like Leno, O'Brien and CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman, Kimmel had resisted mounting pressure to resume production during the strike even as ratings for his show and the others sank sharply.
But the late-night stars decided to break ranks with the WGA and return to work after contract talks collapsed again on December 7, dashing hopes for a quick settlement and leaving the shows' laid-off production staffers in the lurch.
"I support my colleagues and friends in the WGA completely, and hope this ends both fairly and soon," Kimmel said. He, like most other late-night TV hosts, has dual union membership as both a writer and a performer.
The Writers Guild on Monday expressed gratitude to the hosts of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" for supporting the strike as long as they did, saying the union held no ill will toward them for going back.
Letterman's production company, WorldWide Pants, said this week it is negotiating an "interim agreement" with the WGA that would allow his programs to return to the air with writing staffs intact. WorldWide pants produces both the "Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," which also runs on CBS.
Leno, O'Brien and Kimmel are unable to seek a similar deal with the union because they do not own their own shows. They are in the same boat as Comedy Central network stars Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, who also are expected to resume production early next year without their writers.