After just several days of rumors and speculation, NBC confirmed Sunday a change to the network’s late-night line up. Now, the question is, will all parties involved except it?
The changes — moving Jay Leno back to late-night at 11:35 p.m. and pushing Conan O’Brien back to 12:05 a.m. — have been accepted by Leno, but not yet by O’Brien who could be considering a move to another network or a legal battle with NBC for breach of contract. The leak period on this news was relatively short, as the first reports of a line-up change emerged this past Thursday.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter now, as the focus will be on the mixed messages the line-up changes reveal, less than one year after Leno was heralded as the new face of prime-time for NBC.
“You have the combination of expired content, in terms of current public taste, appearing at the wrong time on a medium that has lost its salience, by whatever standards you use,” Paul Levinson, professor of communication at Fordham University told the Times.
On “The Tonight Show” brand, the Times‘ David Carr said, “Not since New Coke has a storied brand been so thoroughly maimed.” Harsh? Yes, but NBC needed to make a move after intense pressure from affiliate stations, whose profits are down more than 22% in 2009 in part after losing “lead in” audiences to their nightly news due to Leno’s slumping ratings.
Allison Gollust, NBC’s executive vice president of corporate communications, declined to make NBC Jeff Zucker available for interviews thus far. Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, announced the plans at an industry event yesterday in California.