NBC to Press: Leno’s Leaving 10 PM Slot

By Matt Van Hoven 

Averaging just 5 million viewers per night, ‘The Jay Leno Show’ isn’t what NBC, its affiliates and advertisers hoped it would be. Just half-way through its first season, the ‘experiment’ is officially over on Feb. 11, 2010, confirm reports from various publications attending the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California.

AP: “NBC wants to begin airing Leno’s show at 11:35 p.m. after the Olympics end Feb. 28, but with a half-hour show,” NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin said.

B&C: “‘It did not meet our affiliates’ needs,” Gaspin told the media at the TCA press tour in Pasadena.”

NYT: “The change, if completed, would represent a retreat from the network’s strategy of replacing Mr. Leno, who drove ‘The Tonight Show’ to the top of the late-night ratings, with the younger, hipper Mr. O’Brien, then trying to save money in prime-time by replacing expensive dramas with Mr. Leno’s show at 10 p.m.”

THR: “My goal right now is to keep Jay [Leno], Conan [O’Brien] and Jimmy [Fallon] as part of our late-night lineup. As much as I’d like to tell you we have a done deal, we know that’s not true.”

That quote, from Mediadecoder’s Brian Stelter, hits on a key point for those in the advertising community who hope to buy space any the shows. Some reports indicate that Leno’s show will stay at 30 minutes, shifting back to 11:35 pm. It’s been reported that Conan Obrien’s ‘Tonight Show’ is likely to land at 12:05 am, and ‘The Late Show With Jimmy Fallon’ will run at 1:05 am.

Those of you wondering why Leno didn’t get his show back, or why it won’t be extended to an hour, reports Deadline Hollywood Daily, “NBC may act like this sked change is a slam dunk, but I’m told ‘Conan hasn’t agreed to anything yet, especially not to push back to 12:05 AM.’ NBC has the contractual right to start The Tonight Show as late as 12:05 AM, which it sometimes does for sports or news. So if NBC gives Jay Leno back the 11:35 PM slot, and calls it The Jay Leno Show, and keeps Conan on Tonight, the network incurs no penalties.”

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