Why Leno Leaving Prime Time Hurts All Broadcast TV

By Andrew Gauthier 


NBC solved a short-term crisis today when it confirmed that Conan O’Brien will leave the network and Jay Leno will retake “The Tonight Show,” but Mr. Leno’s failure in prime time complicates the long-term challenge for all broadcast TV.

That’s because launching “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. each weeknight was NBC and NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker‘s stab at repositioning the network — and, perhaps, the entire TV medium — for future consumer use.


With viewership fragmenting around niche cable channels, not to mention a host of new watch-TV-when-you-want devices and technologies sprouting forth from Apple, Google and many others, it made perfect sense to launch a daily prime-time talk show that might draw fewer viewers but also cost less to produce. More…