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NBC and the Late Night Controversy

Updated on January 22, 2016

Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien

What Will NBC Do with Late Night Television?

NBC was banking on Jay Leno being the king of primetime in the 10PM timeslot. It looks like that move backfired for the network. It was announced on January 7th that NBC will pull the plug on the Jay Leno Show as of February 12.

NBC will be starting Winter Olympic coverage from Vancouver beginning February 12 through 28.

NBC executives are in talks with Leno, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon about each host moving their timeslot around. One proposal has Leno doing an half hour show from 11:35pm to 12:05pm, Conan doing the Tonight Show from 12:05pm to 1:05pm, Fallon starting his show at 1:05pm. Carson Daly's show would be more than likely cancelled.

Conan O'Brien released a statement today, January 12th, concerning his future. To sum it up, O'Brien will no longer host the Tonight Show to accomodate Jay Leno.

NBC's gamble with Jay Leno lasted less than four months. The ratings have been very low and the affiliates have been complaining how Jay Leno has stolen some of the thunder for the upcoming newscast. Some of the affiliates have threatened the network about ad revenue losses and declining viewership.

This is not good for a network that is sitting in fourth among the major networks. Also what hurts NBC is having only a couple of hit shows in The Office and 30 Rock. Law and Order is still pretty popular on the network but its numbers are dwindling. Late Night television has been the only part of the network that has been successful. When Jay Leno left as host of the Tonight Show, he and the network were number 1 in late night. Conan has struggled and has been neck and neck with David Letterman and the Late Show on CBS.

Conan is a very talented comedian. Before hosting Late Night, he was writer and producer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live. As one host on the radio put it, Conan is the "Rodney Dangerfield" of television. Conan just gets no respect.

I really do not blame Conan for his statement he released today. He and the network have not given him a fair chance to succeed. Just seven months is not long enough to tinker and build the audience. One thing that has hurt Conan is the scandal with David Letterman actually has helped him grab more viewers and the ratings. Conan could go to another network, i.e FOX, but we will wait and see.

All of this controversy has not helped NBC. It is showing how the network is poorly being managed. NBC needs a spark but not this kind of spark. Maybe they can reevaluate things after the Winter Olympics.

Jay Leno could very well walk to another network as well. Leno is talented. While hosting the Tonight Show, it took him several years to improve and take the show to number 1 in late night. What has made Jay's show successful are the popular segments like "Headlines" and "Jay-Walking".

Conan is not being allowed the opportunity to hone his craft. Granted, Conan has been a talk show host for seventeen years but he is catering to a much different audience that watches the Tonight Show than Late Night. Tonight Show is an older demographic than those who would watch Late Night.

I am sure everything will settle in the coming days. Lets hope NBC can figure all this mess out and somehow recover from it.


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    • SneakersOToole profile image


      7 years ago

      I totally agree with your point that Conan needed time to figure out exactly what worked best with the new demographic at The Tonight Show.

      But at the same time I don't really feel like The Tonight show was the right show for Conan. I'm a huuuuge Conan fan and I can definitely say that Conan is at his best when he's at his wackiest. With the Late Night show Conan had the freedom of a later time slot to do pretty much anything he wanted. In the earlier slot with the Tonight Show he had to conform more and more to NBC's standards to appeal to a wider audiance. Without the same creative freedom Conan was struggling to find what worked.

      But now he has that freedom again with his show on TBS and is going strong once again!

    • dave360 profile image


      7 years ago

      Conan is back on TBS, check this out

    • kingis profile imageAUTHOR

      Patrick King 

      8 years ago from Springfield, IL


      I will say Jay Leno is very good in his standup. My wife and I saw him on our honeymoon in Vegas. You see a more restricted Jay on the Tonight Show. Conan is very talented and I think he will do very well on TBS in the fall with his show and George Lopez.

    • nifty@50 profile image


      8 years ago

      I really miss Johnny Carson! Even when he really bombed he knew how to give that Jack Benny look that just cracked you up! I think Jon Stewart is funnier than either Conan or Leno! But between the two I give the edge to Leno! Great hub!

    • Springboard profile image


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Truth is that its getting uglier and uglier as the days wear on, and I think there's still a lot under the radar, so to speak, that will come out as this thing progresses. Clearly all of these folks (with the exception of Fallon I think) have myriad options open to them, and I'm certain that there are plenty of other network execs counting their cash piles right now to see how much they might be able to throw at them to get them on their own networks.

      NBC is an ongoing disaster.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Excellent hub. I enjoy watching Conan.


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