Monday, January 11, 2010

My Advice for Conan O’Brien – Go To Fox!

It was just a little over a year ago when I wrote my opinions about NBC moving Jay Leno to the 10 PM time slot in my article titled “Has NBC Cut Off Their Nose to Spite Their Face?? Just to refresh your memory, here’s what I said:

“This also brings up the issue of the local affiliates, who currently have a scripted show leading up to their 11:00 PM local newscasts. If less people tune in for Leno, it may mean less people turning in for the local news afterwards. I’m sure they are less than thrilled with NBC right now, since it seems NBC just threw them under the bus.

I have a tendency to agree with Les Moonves that this move will only mean sunnier days and more viewers for CBS, and likely ABC as well. Think about this: two of NBC popular main stays are Law & Order and Law & Order SVU. Now, those viewers who used to watch those shows at 10:00 will likely still gravitate to another drama on another network. Then, NBC may find that when they pit these two shows up against other shows airing at 8:00 or 9:00 PM that are already well established, that they will draw less viewers for Law & Order and SVU than if they aired at 10:00 PM.”

I think my TV instincts are pretty good, and I knew that this whole mess was going to come back and bite NBC in the butt. It turned out to be true that the affiliates lost significant views after the Leno show. It came true that shows like Law & Order and Law & Order SVU suffered in viewership by being moved to earlier times and different days. It turned out to be true that CBS did see sunnier days as Leno gave CBS bigger ad revenues.

Over the weekend when NBC advised that they were moving Leno back to 11:30 for a half hour show, and Conan to 12:05, I felt vindicated. I also believe that the network has treated Conan O’Brien shabbily by still allowing him to be host of the Tonight Show, yet still having to follow Leno. As of this writing, nothing has been confirmed from Conan as yet whether he will play or take his ball and go home. The New York Times referred to the NBC mess as “In Leno Fiasco, a Window to the Midlife Crisis of NBC” where they write “No one thought the network television business would age gracefully, but NBC has turned two of its biggest stars into the equivalent of Jon and Kate: two wounded parties biding their time until the divorce comes through. By Friday night, Mr. O’Brien had a day to gain some perspective and ticked off a list of rumors, including a last one that sounded just about right: “NBC is going to throw me and Jay into a pit with sharpened sticks. The one who crawls out alive gets to leave NBC.”

My opinion is that Conan should get as far away from NBC as possible, and move over to the Fox TV network, which is in dire need of a late night show. Conan’s style of humor would fit the hip and edgy Fox television, and would provide formidable competition for Leno. It seems clear to me that as long as Jay Leno is breathing, NBC will never move him out. The fact that Leno was unable to draw enough viewers at an earlier time slot when many more people could be watching should be a clue that Leno’s style of humor is stiff and dated, and no longer a draw for viewers. In defense of Leno, it was probably a mistake for NBC to move him out of the Tonight Show in the first place. But NBC wanted to have its cake and eat it too by keeping both Leno and Conan. Now, NBC has egg on their face and possibly a new problem if Conan doesn’t want to play along. The handwriting seems to be on the wall for Conan – NBC likes Jay Leno more. NBC doesn’t deserve Conan, and I think it’s time for him to move on to those greener pastures that likely exist at Fox.

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Anonymous said...

Did you happen to see what Conan said about the whole thing? I'm paraphrasing here...He said throw him and Leno into a pit and whoever makes it out alive gets to leave NBC. NBC has been totally terrible to Conan. He's been a good soldier and he should leave NBC and stick it to them. But he won't because he's a great guy.

My cousin met him when he went around on his press junkets to promote the Tonight Show. She told me what a humble, funny and sweetheart he was. He took the time to even call her friend and spoke to her on the phone.

Sara said...

I agree with most everything you have said. I really don't think Jay personally failed at 10 p.m. though. The format did. Leno had to mold the show to meet prime time constrictions while not offending the FCC. It didn't help matters either when ABC and CBS prohibited their stars from appearing on Leno's show.

The blame for this whole mess lies squarely on Jeff Zucker's shoulders. Asking the host of a number one show to agree to step down was a fatal move. Jay, on the other hand, shouldn't have been so eager to be the consummate company man.

Now Zucker's still trying to keep both stars when he ought to cut one of them loose. Jay Leno shouldn't settle for a 30 minute show. And Conan, whom I agree needs to move on, may have to stay if recent revelations about his contract are accurate.

Jeff Zucker obviously never heard "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Rosemary said...

Conan has just stated his position in a sad but beautifully written statement; he won't go to 12:05 and help "destroy" the Tonight Show.

Yet another clueless decision from NBC. IMO Jay is a slime who help set this up with his hints about wanting to "come back."

I hope Conan and all staff get a new gig soon and that it will be back in New York where they belong!

Anonymous said...

You are totslly correct Rosemary. I heard the interview a few weeks ago and thought at the time that Jay was manuevering himself to get the Tongiht Show back. Total slug. Let's face it--Jay was in a win-win situation. If he suceeded in a big way at the 10 pm slot (Which he did in a way--he brought in 4-6 milliion viewers on a show done on a shoe string) and Conan did ok numbers we wouldn't be talking about this. But Conan didn't deliver the big numbers and Jay being the loyal soldier would be in place to take over the dying franchise. Sleazy sleazy. For me, it's not a real issue because I've always been a Letterman watcher. But I've always had a soft spot for Conan. He's a true gentleman and real team player. Hopefully, he will be rewarded.


Anonymous said...

Wehn Jay took over the Tonight Show, it was on the heels of the master, Johnny Carson. Leno didn't have to work as hard because competition wasn't as great. But as Letterman rose up in the ratings ranks over time, he started to bite into Jay's viewers. I think Conan should have been given more time, and I think NBC are a bunch of bastards for bumping Conan to one half hour later - INTO THE NEXT DAY, really. NBC wants to have it all and doesn't want to have any competition. I said too bad NBC, that's life. I hope Conan goes to Fox because I will follow him there too.