Thursday, January 07, 2010

Leno Moving Back to 11:30 for 30 Minutes?

The New York Times is reporting that NBC is planning to move Jay Leno back to 11:35 p.m. to do a 30-minute show, followed by Conan O'Brien at 12:05 a.m. for an hour, and then Jimmy Fallon at 1:05 a.m. No word on what show gets named what, but I'm betting that O'Brien keeps "The Tonight Show" name and Leno's show remains "The Jay Leno Show". Besides being an act of desperation, NBC's moves smack of more half-steps: They can't remove Conan O'Brien from the Tonight Show without paying him a huge kill fee ($50 million, as I recall), but what can Jay Leno do in 30 minutes? A monologue, perhaps a sketch or comedy bit, but no interviews. O'Brien would start at 12:05 a.m., and Jimmy Fallon would be in Carson Daly's nosebleed territory.

NBC's hope is that moving Leno back to 11:35 p.m. will let them win the first half-hour of late night again against Letterman and Nightline, and give O'Brien a better lead-in, with the goal of keeping viewers from tuning to Letterman for the second half of his show, or to ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. But given NBC's track record, the chances are more likely that Nightline and Letterman will stay on top, the Tonight Show will be even more crippled than it is now, and Late Night will be killed in the ratings.

Why can't NBC simply bite the bullet and put Jay Leno back as the host of the Tonight Show? Pay O'Brien his kill fee and offer him Late Night again, move whatever Jimmy Fallon does to 1:35 a.m., and get rid of Carson Daly. Rather than really fix the problem, NBC's management looks like it's going to make another "bold move" that's really a half-step intended to save money.

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