Breaking News NBC Will Give Jay Leno 10 PM Slot; Move Keeps Jay Away From ABC
NBC Will Give Leno 10 PM Slot; Move Keeps Jay Away From ABC
UPDATE: My source was correct, and NBC will be announcing shortly this major primetime move to strip Jay Leno at 10 PM. It certainly makes sense because NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker couldn’t afford to let late night’s No. 1 host go to a competitor. So this way Jay Leno would stay at the network. It keeps ABC away from him. And it may very well secure NBC’s 10 PM slot and Jay’s legacy. Or it could all go into the crapper if Leno’s 11:30 PM audience fails to follow him. (Conventional wisdom has it that late night viewers are creatures of habit, so a major change like this is far from a given.) But NBC’s beleaguered owned-and-operated TV stations and affiliates may like this new set-up since it could conceivably provide a stong lead-infor their local news shows. And with NBC’s primetime tanking, they may well prefer a known quantity like Leno to another ratings disastrous scripted or reality 10 PM program. Anyway, talk of this began circulating in Hollywood this afternoon, real enough that my first source was getting frantic calls from NBC’s rival networks about it. Interesting how this news comes right after NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker told an investors conference today that he’s considering cutting the number of hours and even the number of nights that the network airs programming. Since The Tonight Show is a cash cow, Zucker no doubt figures that Leno at 10 PM could be another.
Jay ends his hosting of The Tonight Show May 29th, and Conan O’Brien starts on June 1st. (Leno is going to be paid for all of 2009 even though he’s only working six months of it.) So much for everyone including me thinking it was a lock for Leno to move to ABC as Jimmy Kimmel’s lead-in. Now my NBC news today sounds like a game-changer. So much for no behind-the-scenes late night drama. But Leno has publicly told the press that he was “done” with NBC (and later claimed he was “misunderstood”) Here’s what Leno stated: “I am definitely done next year — with NBC. I’m not a beach guy, and the last time I was in my pool was to fix a light. Don’t worry, I’ll find a job somewhere.” He’s also been making merciless fun of NBC and Jef Zucker on the air. I’ve been saying for some time that, judging from Leno’s animus towards Jeff Zucker who brutally threw him under a bus for Conan O’Brien in 2009 even though Jay is still No. 1 in late night, there was no way Leno would stick with NBC. So, it looked clear that Jay is ABC-bound and on the air there in 2010. I also heard from sources that Jimmy Kimmel is “OK” with having his time slot moved, and ABC extended its option with its current late night host to keep him at the network through at least 2010. At the Television Critics Association briefing no long ago, ABC Entertainment topper Steve McPherson stated “there’s absolutely room for both” Kimmel and Leno, and pledged that Jimmy would be fully consulted every step of the Jay negotiation — something Zucker failed to do with Leno. “I can’t believe they’re going to let this guy go at the top of his game,” McPherson said. “If that happens, I guess we’ll look at it at the time, and Jimmy will be involved in those discussions, and that will be that.”
Meanwhile, producer Lorne Michael has Jimmy Fallon doing a Late Night Web show starting in the fall at 12:30 AM to work out the kinks because Conan was so hopeless when started hosting. Fallon will get TV time on the air following Leno as O’Brien takes a breather, then prepares to take over The Tonight Show. Meanwhile, how alarming for NBC that Late Late Show’s Craig Ferguson has caught up with Conan ratings-wise.