Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NBC: Fickle or Pickle?

5 years ago, in an attempt to keep Conan O'Brien from leaving NBC and competing with Jay Leno, they made a deal that in 2009, Conan would be the new host of the Tonight Show which airs at 11:35pm weeknights.

NBC learned a lesson previously when they passed over David Letterman who was hosting Late Night, (before Conan) and Dave jumped over to CBS to go head to head with Jay.

So last summer, the shuffling began.

NBC gave Jay the boot from his top ranked Tonight Show and gave him a 10pm time slot instead.

NBC was going to save buckets of cash by not having to pay for the more expensive drama show's it aired in the 10pm hour.

They brought in Jimmy Fallon to host Conan's old show and all was going to be fine and dandy.

But it wasn't.

It all fell apart. The reason?

From a viewers viewpoint= The 10pm Jay Leno Show sucked.

That is the issue most people this week have been ignoring.

I watched Jay the first week.

By the second week, I knew it was bad. Really bad.

Q: What did most people do while watching the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for 17 years?
A: Fall asleep.

And now that is what my wife and I were doing. Sure we were getting more rest by falling asleep by 10:20, 10:30 at the latest. But that wasn't the reason NBC moved Jay to prime time, so I would get more sleep, was it?

So as Jay and his staff tried to make the show work, NBC found itself in a real pickle. They were losing viewers, and their affiliates were screaming at them too.

The local newscasts at 11pm which followed the Jay Leno Show on NBC stations were losing viewers too, because of the poor ratings of Jay's show.

The past couple of weeks, the rumors started flowing. What should NBC do? NBC was not only in a pickle, they were also about to become fickle.

The peacock at NBC had lost some of their feathers. And you know this is a big story when it appears on CBS, ABC, Fox and CNN, the competition.

The proposal they were working on was to give Jay his old 11:35pm slot, except he'd only have 30 minutes. Then delay Conan and Jimmy so their shows would start at 12:05am & 1:05am; but everyone had to agree.

Today, Conan finally had his say in a letter to NBC, and "The People of Earth". And he said it with class and a touch of humor in the last line.

I found a video from NBC last year as they were preparing for the transition:

Will NBC recover?

No. They screwed up by trying to make everyone happy.

Should NBC have tried this talk show experiment? Well, it took guts, but all we have now is hindsight.

Here's the press release from Conan:
Statement from Conan O'Brien
Jan 12 04:22 PM US/Eastern

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Conan O'Brien released the following statement.

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.



SOURCE Conan O’Brien

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