Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the Late Night BLOW OFF

For those of you that don't work in TV, don't live in LA, or have been living under a rock, there's been a major shakedown in the world of late night television.

Brief history: In 2004, Jay Leno and NBC agreed he would retire in five years and that Conan O'Brien would take over The Tonight Show in 2009.

Once five years rolled around, Leno said he wasn't sure if he was ready to leave? NBC decided to solve the problem with a bold move. They would launch the Jay Leno Show in primetime to air Mon-Fri at 10pm, followed by the news, followed by The Tonight Show hosted by Conan O'Brien.

Their little experiment turned into an epic fail. The Jay Leno's show had subpar ratings, the affiliates (AKA local stations), who's bread and butter is the 11 'o' clock news were suffering from the weak lead in, and The Tonight Show was down from last year's ratings by a lot.

The Blow Off: NBC announced they would push The Jay Leno Show to 11:35pm and give Conan the option to resume his post as host of The Tonight Show at 12:05 am, followed by Late night with Jimmy Fallon. They blamed their decision on affiliate pressure. This is like the equivalent of telling someone you want to see other people, but would like them to stick around for a booty call. LA has been abuzz with the question "What Will Conan Do?" Earlier today, he released this statement:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.


Sigh. One of the most eloquent and classy responses to a blow off. We love you, Conan and even though Rupert Murdoch sucks, we will totally watch you on Fox!

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