NBC: What Happened?!

I know we all know the basics of the NBC Late-Night lineup fiasco: Conan O’Brien was set to take over Jay Leno’s show in June 2009; and Jay signed a deal with NBC to take over the 10 PM slot every night, boasting that his talk show was far cheaper to produce than any crime drama that would usually take that slot. This past June, the switch took place – Conan took over the 11:35 spot, and Jay was on at 10.

But things didn’t turn out as planned. Ratings were down all around, with a number of factors to blame – Jay was not a great lead-in for Conan; receiving low ratings for his show and leaving a smaller audience of people willing to stick around after the 10 PM slot; and Conan has always been a slow winner in the ratings race: when he initially joined NBC for the Late Night with Conan O’Brien show years ago, it took him a year or so to really build up viewership.

What I don’t understand is not why Jay wouldn’t want back his 11:30 time slot – he wants to stay on the air – or why Conan would be pissed – I would be too – but I don’t get why NBC would totally abandon their setup (a) so quickly and (b) for two major network staples.

Love ’em or hate ’em, Jay and Conan are both very different but very vital assets to NBC – Conan has a huge, extraordinarily dedicated fan base – I’m among them! – and Jay has appeal to a mass audience – the older viewers really like him. It made sense to move Jay to an earlier time to appeal to an even more mass audience; and to give Conan a promotion and help him build his fan base.

I’m in shock that after a whole schedule change like that, they would be so quick to push their whole schedule back. I wouldn’t be surprised if things weren’t getting better after 2 years or so, but after only 7 months? That’s an incredibly short amount of time and very little faith being placed in Conan. He barely had a chance to prove himself!

I’m dying to know what happened in the minds of NBC executives. Major shifts like this usually take time, and sometimes a bit of a profit loss, before they really pay off, work, and pay for themselves. This makes absolutely no sense to me – in terms of long-term stability and in terms of a network looking like, instead of mindless drones only striving for ratings, an actual group of people who know what Americans should be watching.

Anyway, I’m on Team Conan. I’ve never really appreciated Jay’s sense of humor – to me it just seems like a rehashing of headlines that I could just read online. Conan always adds his own brand to it, and has hilarious bits like “puppies dressed as [insert thing here” and his personality is simply more likeable. According to Newser, Jay Leno has had to sell seats for his Las Vegas comedy show at buy-one-get-one-free deals – the only one on his strip to have to do so. This is the guy you’re willing to kick out Conan for, NBC?

Who’s with me, Team CoCo?

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About beckawall

AU Alumni, feminist, master of peanut butter brownies. Lover of Teddy Roosevelt, politics, analyzing popular culture, and general nerdery.

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