NBC Licks Wounds After Late Night Wars

So the week of nail-biting is over, and Conan O’Brien is signing off as host of “The Tonight Show”… well, tonight. Fans are not the only ones sad to see CoCo go: both NBC and Jay Leno are doing major damage control to try and spin all the ill-will they’ve garnered lately for muscling Conan out of the 11:35 slot.

First stop on Jay’s “I’m sorry America” tour? “Oprah,” then the White House.

Leno has been pegged to host the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, the event known to the rest of us as “that thing where Stephen Colbert made fun of President Bush to his face and no one could do anything about it.” Of course, Leno was slated to host before this whole NBC late night debacle went down, and we’re betting whoever is in charge is slapping themselves on the head for not getting O’Brien on instead.

But before he even gets near the president, Leno is planning to first visit the queen. Next week, Leno will be on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, trying to restore his reputation as not being the biggest jerk in late night television, Page Six reported today. This might feel like a familiar story for NBC, which lost David Letterman in the mid-90’s after the network chose Leno as the successor to “The Tonight Show.”

But if NBC’s CEO Jeff Zucker is mad about Leno’s ability to rub his in-house competition the wrong way, he hasn’t shown it. Zucker was on “The Charlie Rose Show” last Sunday defending the network’s decision to push Leno back to 11:35, and he’s not blaming the recent drop in revenue on his stars, but rather on its dipping movie properties.

In order to combat the ratings dip that was “The Jay Leno Show” on prime time, NBC is preparing its charges to fix its key time slot, with a 30 percent budget increase slated for this year to help entice viewers. “There’s no shame in trying things,” Zucker told The Wall Street Journal today, “The only shame is in trying things and not acknowledging when they don’t work. That would be the bigger mistake.”

Though after they pay Conan and his staff $45 million to walk away from the network, there’s a very good argument that putting Leno on prime time was about as big a fiscal mistake as the network could make.

Read More: Jay Leno to Keynote White House Correspondents Dinner –CBS News

Leno planning Oprah appearanceNew York Post

NBC Droops, but Doesn’t Blame Its Woes on Jay or Conan –All Things Digital

NBC Gears Up to Fix Prime TimeWall Street Journal

Previously: NBC’s Jeff Zucker: “Leadership Is About Taking Chances”, Conan v. Leno: The End of The Week