Jay Leno Is Heading Back to 11:30, But Where Will Conan Go?

     January 10, 2010


There has been much hearsay and speculation in the past couple days once TMZ reported  that The Jay Leno Show would be removed from the 10 PM hour after the Olympics.  Today, NBC held a press conference  for the Television Critics Association, and as expected discussed their plans for the coming months in detail.

In NBC’s ideal world, Jay Leno will host a nightly half-hour show at 11:30 PM, while Conan O’Brien’s The Tonight Show will move back to 12:05 AM, and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon will be pushed to 1:05 AM.  Leno, O’Brien, and Fallon all have the weekend to consider the offer.

Look for explanation from NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin, as transcribed by The Live Feed, after the jump.

nbc_tonight_show_conan_o_brien_jay_leno_01.jpgFor as much bad press as The Jay Leno Show show received, it was financially justifiable for the network.  Gaspin told reporters, “I would have liked nothing more than to give this a 52-week try. Affiliates started calling, saying local news was being impacted more than expected. In some cases, they had the No. 1 news show, and now they were No. 3.”

Gaspin went on to say, “We were making money at 10 p.m. I think over time [Leno show ratings] might have started to grow. For the network, it was not yet a wrong decision.”

The decision was probably a solid (if not spectacular) business move for NBC Universal, and they would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those pesky affiliates.  But in hindsight, I’ll bet NBC would make any move that keeps them clear of this quagmire.

Leno is the man of the hour right now, but he is probably on board with the move back to 11:30 despite the shortened run-time, as he never wanted to leave the time slot that served him so well for over a decade.  O’Brien might have the real power in this situation. The deal is not nearly as sweet for him, and the only thing that would keep him on NBC is the legacy of the Tonight Show name.  FOX has publicly mentioned interest the redheaded host, so O’Brien may well leave NBC for greener pastures and take his show off network.  Fallon is green enough that he’s just along for the ride, his future at the whims of his elders.

Regardless, the seismic shifts in the late night landscape are not over, and there will be more official movement by the end of February.  As soon as we hear where and when you will be seeing Leno, O’Brien, and Fallon (and, er, Carson Daly), we’ll let you know.