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NBC late night programming adventures


kimmy

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Last summer, NBC big-heads came up with an adventurous plan for beating the recession blues: put Jay Leno in prime time.

They put Jay Leno in the 10pm time slot that used to be occupied by prestige dramas. Except, NBC doesn't really have any prestige dramas anymore. The idea was that Jay is a proven winner, NBC had no proven winners to put in the time slot, and new dramas are expensive to produce. NBC's theory was that even if Leno did earn high ratings, they would save a lot of money by not spending a lot of money developing new properties. NBC expected beforehand that a prime time talk show would not have as many viewers as the offerings on competing networks. NBC was ok with that, believing the money they would save would more than offset the loss in viewership.

As expected, Jay Leno Show did not earn high ratings, being beaten badly by programming airing on other networks. NBC may have saved money by not investing in developing new programs, but things didn't work out as well as they hoped. The problem with not having viewers for one show is that you lose viewers for the next show too. Local NBC affiliates saw ratings plummet for their local 11pm newscasts, and they were irate. The domino effect may have continued later, as the later shows also lost viewers compared to the year before. Because the hosts changed, it is difficult to guess how much was due to different hosts and how much was due to the weak lead-in.

Conan O'Brien, who had been promoted to replace Leno on the Tonight Show, has just received a $32 million buy-out, so that Leno can have his old show back; Conan's staff have received $12 million more in the buy-out. Leno returns to his old time slot. NBC will fill the space left by The Jay Leno show with new programs, including apparently a new Seinfeld project and a Law and Order show of some kind.

NBC seems to have underestimated the damage that resulted from willingly giving up a chunk of its customers in return for saving money. Perhaps this has implications on other businesses too.

-k

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Late night Talk TV was at its best when Carson held the 11:30-1:00 (later 12:30) slot with Letterman following. If you still had a charge in your batteries after that you could hang on for the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. Circa 1985 or so...

Edited by DogOnPorch
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Late night Talk TV was at its best when Carson held the 11:30-1:00 (later 12:30) slot with Letterman following. If you still had a charge in your batteries after that you could hang on for the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. Circa 1985 or so...

I never particularly took to Leno. He had his moments, and of course, being in LA, he always had more capability of grabbing the big names than Letterman. Still, there was very little edge to Leno. Carson had that edge, and it made the Tonight Show under his reign a fun show to watch. Then, as you say, you'd flip over to Letterman, where it was all edge (back in those days).

Not that I'm a fan of Conan. I find most of his humor fairly sophomoric. Still, he's the victim here. Unlike every other host of the Tonight Show before him, he was never given the chance to grow the audience. The affiliates freaked out, but in large part because Leno's even more suburban prime time show was sitting on valuable real estate. Conan deserves his big payout, and once again NBC has demonstrated just how screwy they are. Leno's what, 62? I mean, he's probably only going to go on for what, maybe five, six years. Maybe Fallon can grow the audience to succeed him, maybe not, but Conan was a lot more obvious a successor than Fallon.

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Then, as you say, you'd flip over to Letterman, where it was all edge (back in those days).

If you recall, they were all on NBC back then. Letterman moved to CBS back yonder in 1993.

Conan has his moments. When he was after Letterman, Craig Ferguson never had a chance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Ferguson

Here's a moment in TV history...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvaUa559gMw

Edited by DogOnPorch
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If you recall, they were all on NBC back then. Letterman moved to CBS back yonder in 1993.

Conan has his moments. When he was after Letterman, Craig Ferguson never had a chance.

Ferguson is the best of the bunch, though. I just love his stream of consciousness monologues. His stories never seem to go very far, but it's the trip that counts!

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Ferguson is the best of the bunch, though. I just love his stream of consciousness monologues. His stories never seem to go very far, but it's the trip that counts!

Oh yeah. Craig has done the best of all out of this in terms of getting noticed.

Edited by DogOnPorch
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Definitely Stewart...in my humble opinion anyway. Colbert has his moments, but he's not funny on the same level.

Stewart and Colbert are in a little different category, in my opinion, very much more to the political satire end of things. I enjoy Stewart and Colbert, but still, in the all around entertaining night time host department, Craig Ferguson is still the funniest. Maybe it's because I've got a deep love of British absurdist comedy, and Ferguson definitely taps into that.

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Conan and Letterman are funny. Leno is not. I love Conan, my fav late-night host ever. Quick-witted with an off-the-wall show. I thought Jimmy Fallon would bomb because he can be quite annoying, but he's actually done fairly well i think, and has the greatest all-time late-night band ever in The Roots!

Stewart and Colbert are a different category. Colbert is a much funnier comedian than Stewart, but Colbert's show gets monotonous and boring after awhile. Stewart really isn't that funny at all, never was. He always laughs at his own jokes or smiles through them. But he has a great show and great writers who make him look good, and he is likeable. And he does very good interviews. But funny? No.

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Conan and Letterman are funny. Leno is not....

Conan and Letterman do not have Leno's old school respect for the audience, the craft, or work ethic. Leno can still fill rooms on the Vegas Strip, where he goes to work on vacation. Letterman turned bitter and began heaping disdain on his staff and audience years ago. He was a better weatherman.

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Conan and Letterman do not have Leno's old school respect for the audience, the craft, or work ethic.

Letterman is a grumpy fink. But Conan has as much respect for his audience, staff, his predecessors, and the industry itself has anyone who has ever hosted a TV show. His work ethic is also fantastic, he's on every night and rarely takes a break (unlike Jon Stewart, who doesn't have a show monday or friday...why is it called The Daily Show? lol) Conan is a true class act.

Leno is a good guy for sure, i just don't find him funny. He definitely appeals to an older, more mainstream audience.

Off to watch Conan's last show now....11:35!

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Leno is a good guy for sure, i just don't find him funny. He definitely appeals to an older, more mainstream audience.

I agree with that.....Leno represents a Tonight Show continuity going back to Jack Paar, when I first started watching. Both Carson and Leno would self edit in real time when the writers crossed a line.

NBC execs really dicked this one up.

Edited by bush_cheney2004
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What I gathered from all this NBC commotion is that there is lots of money to be had - win or lose.

Lots of money to be had by some. For NBC, the best it can hope for is to stop further hemorrhaging and to hope they haven't utterly trashed the Tonight Show brand in the process. It was an unmitigated disaster, make no mistake. Yes, O'Brien gets a big whack of cash, Jay gets his slot back and Fallon isn't bumped into oblivion. But what if Leno can't recover the ratings? What if he decides to retire after two or three years, and Fallon doesn't prove any more viable a replacement than O'Brien appears to have been? If I was a shareholder or an affiliate, right now would not be a happy time, but a time of solemn prayer to whatever gods watch over late night ratings.

The other big winner, of course, is Letterman, who finally had something to turn down the heat of his own recently revealed indiscretions.

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Lots of money to be had by some. For NBC, the best it can hope for is to stop further hemorrhaging and to hope they haven't utterly trashed the Tonight Show brand in the process. It was an unmitigated disaster, make no mistake. Yes, O'Brien gets a big whack of cash, Jay gets his slot back and Fallon isn't bumped into oblivion. But what if Leno can't recover the ratings? What if he decides to retire after two or three years, and Fallon doesn't prove any more viable a replacement than O'Brien appears to have been? If I was a shareholder or an affiliate, right now would not be a happy time, but a time of solemn prayer to whatever gods watch over late night ratings.

I am of the belief that the late-night ratings are of minor importance compared to the damage NBC did to its prime-time ratings. There are a lot more viewers in prime-time than in late-night, and Jay Leno's show was being completely curb-stomped by the competition.

Jay's show Thursday night had less than half as many viewers as "Private Practice" on ABC, and 1/3 as many viewers as "The Mentalist" on CBS, the two major-network shows it was competing against. That is, of roughly 27 million people estimated to be watching the 3 major networks at the time, 14 million were watching CBS, 9 million were watching ABC, and just 4 million were watching NBC. To put Jay's 4 million viewers in perspective, ABC debuted a new show Thursday, "The Deep End", which was considered a major flop because it only attracted 7 million viewers.

Worse, for NBC, is that this is the hour leading up to local news, and people are often persuaded to stay on the same channel. Local NBC stations have complained that the audiences for their evening news have imploded compared to last year-- I believe I read a 40% drop in viewers in one story-- and the weak lead-in from the Jay Leno Show has been blamed. NBC knew beforehand that ratings for prime time talk would be lower, but thought it made economic sense. They essentially vacated the time-slot and left their local affiliates to fend for themselves.

I don't agree that there's "lots of money to be had - win or lose". NBC isn't making a lot of money, and hasn't been, for quite some time, which is really how they got themselves into this situation in the first place. It was an ill-conceived plan to save production costs.

However, the cost of paying to correct the mistake now appears to be far less than the cost of continuing it.

-k

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am of the belief that the late-night ratings are of minor importance compared to the damage NBC did to its prime-time ratings. There are a lot more viewers in prime-time than in late-night, and Jay Leno's show was being completely curb-stomped by the competition.

Jay's show Thursday night had less than half as many viewers as "Private Practice" on ABC, and 1/3 as many viewers as "The Mentalist" on CBS, the two major-network shows it was competing against. That is, of roughly 27 million people estimated to be watching the 3 major networks at the time, 14 million were watching CBS, 9 million were watching ABC, and just 4 million were watching NBC. To put Jay's 4 million viewers in perspective, ABC debuted a new show Thursday, "The Deep End", which was considered a major flop because it only attracted 7 million viewers.

Worse, for NBC, is that this is the hour leading up to local news, and people are often persuaded to stay on the same channel. Local NBC stations have complained that the audiences for their evening news have imploded compared to last year-- I believe I read a 40% drop in viewers in one story-- and the weak lead-in from the Jay Leno Show has been blamed. NBC knew beforehand that ratings for prime time talk would be lower, but thought it made economic sense. They essentially vacated the time-slot and left their local affiliates to fend for themselves.

I don't agree that there's "lots of money to be had - win or lose". NBC isn't making a lot of money, and hasn't been, for quite some time, which is really how they got themselves into this situation in the first place. It was an ill-conceived plan to save production costs.

However, the cost of paying to correct the mistake now appears to be far less than the cost of continuing it.

-k

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I don't agree that there's "lots of money to be had - win or lose". NBC isn't making a lot of money, and hasn't been, for quite some time, which is really how they got themselves into this situation in the first place. It was an ill-conceived plan to save production costs.

However, the cost of paying to correct the mistake now appears to be far less than the cost of continuing it.

-k

December 2009 Comcast did'nt lose I assure you - their stock shot up. And GE well they are far too big that 11% return in non-core business - a good haul.

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