If you thought the “Jay Leno vs. David Letterman” battle of the 90’s was epic, this new clusterf#ck over at NBC makes that look like a picnic. It’s no secret that the Jay Leno 10 p.m. nightly show is a total disaster – even NBC, which was all gung-ho about the idea a few months ago, is agreeing that the ratings and format have been an absolute nightmare. But the question now is, how do they fix it – and where does this leave Jay Leno, as well as his Late Show replacement, Conan O’Brien?
NBC appears to be pedaling away from it’s ill-fated decision to run The Jay Leno Show five nights a week at 10 p.m.
As reports swept through Hollywood and the Internet that the network would dial back or eliminate the program in that time period, NBC issued the following statement:
“Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today. As we have said all along, Jay’s show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance.”
While NBC is not tipping its hand just yet, the network appears to be planning a change just days before it announces new mid-season programming Sunday at a gathering of television critics in Pasadena and just days before a meeting with its affiliates board.
As the network continues to insist that Leno has met its modest expectations, the show has been yet another serious problem for the already-troubled network. Not only has Leno failed to draw ratings at 10 p.m., but NBC’s affiliates have seen the viewership plummet for their critically important 11 p.m. local newscasts because of the weak lead-in provided by Leno. Conan O’Brien has also been fighting a losing battle at 11:35 p.m., eroding NBC’s previously dominant position in that time slot.
While cable giant Comcast is many months away from completing its purchase of NBC Universal, there has been abundant speculation that the owners-to-be would want to reclaim the 10 p.m. slot with scripted programming which, if successful, can still prove lucrative.
The decision raises intriguing questions about Leno’s next move. While NBC devised the 10 p.m. show as a way of keeping him at the network (having committed to giving O’Brien the Tonight Show slot), there has been speculation that Leno might leave after all if his 10 p.m. show were pulled. Chances are that both Fox and ABC would both be delighted to give Leno a late-night show should he make himself available. Some in Hollywood wonder, however, whether the unsuccessful foray into primetime will prove to have damaged the Leno brand.
The rumor was first reported on the FTV Live website.
Meanwhile, TMZ is reporting that Jay Leno will return to his Late Show time slot of 11:30, and poor Conan will be out. No!
Jay Leno is going back to his 11:30 PM time slot, and it’s looking like Conan O’Brien is the odd man out … sources tell TMZ.
We’ve learned Jay’s 10:00 PM show will go on hiatus February 1. After the Olympics, Jay will take back his 11:30 PM time slot. What has not been decided — whether Jay’s show will be a half hour, followed by Conan, or whether Jay’s show will be an hour and NBC says sayonara to Mr. O’Brien.
We’re told Jay and Conan have both been told of the changes. As for Jay, interestingly, he’ll get what he always wanted — his 11:30 PM time slot.
I think this is rather unfair to Conan O’Brien. If Jay Leno’s crappy 10 o’clock show is causing a ratings downfall for the 11 o’clock news, it stands to reason that Conan’s show is taking a hit for the same reason. I think Conan is way funnier than Jay and appeals to a younger audience, which was the whole reason the network took Jay out of the Late Show spot. It doesn’t make sense to put him back there if he wasn’t getting the job done. Why is NBC so loyal to Jay and not to Conan?