I've never even seen Conan O'Brien's show but I know I am definitely a supporter.
Conan's final show was Friday night and apparently it was a good one. Although I've never really gotten into the whole late night thing, this Leno vs. Conan vs. NBC thing has definitely gotten my attention. And like I said before, I think Conan made the absolute right decision for himself.
So after 17 years hosting "The Tonight Show" Leno and NBC decide to move Leno to the 10 pm spot to a show called "The Jay Leno Show" and Conan O'Brien gets "promoted" to Leno's spot as the host of "The Tonight Show" at 11:00.
But after about seven months, Leno's new show dropped in the ratings and rumors started to circle that Leno was heading back to the 11:00 slot, bumping everyone back an hour. And Conan was not pleased.
So to make a long story short, Conan refused to move back to midnight and signed a $45 million exit deal with NBC and left the network. And now Jay Leno will be back as host of "The Tonight Show" starting March 1.
It's really refreshing to see someone stand up for what they believe in when so often in show business, celebrities can have the tendency to do what's easy to stay on top. Conan could have just as easily gone back to his midnight time slot where I'm sure he had a decent following, decent ratings and a more than decent paycheck. But shoot, Conan had been hosting "The Late Show with Conan O'Brien" since 1993. It was his turn. So you can't blame him for not exactly bending over when NBC called him and said oh hey um by the way... When you spend that much time as the No. 2, you're gonna get hungry for that No. 1 spot. It finally comes, I'm sure Conan is stoked, then NBC pulls the rug out from underneath him because they're ratings started to fall. So again, major props to Conan for standing up for what, essentially, is right. They gave him that spot and why does he get punished because the network darling a.k.a. Leno didn't live up to his title? Conan has nothing to do with this. Jay Leno and NBC made that decision for this primetime show, yet Conan's the one that loses? (This is not to say that a $45 million payout is in any way a loss but hopefully you get what I mean.)
I still don't blame Leno though. I don't feel like he had a hand in any of this, but I could be completely mistaken. I pretty much just blame the NBC execs for all of it, including the fall out that you know is going to result from this whole debacle.
How many shows on NBC can you name that you are actually interested in that are not on the Thursday night primetime lineup? Other than The Office, 30 Rock and The Biggest Loser, NBC doesn't really have that much going for it as far as programming. Again, how is this Conan's fault? NBC hasn't had the top-rated show in the Nielsen ratings since 2001-02's season of Friends. Before that, they dominated for five years with both Seinfeld and ER.
I feel like these popularity cycles just happen with TV stations. Trust me I won't pretend like I know or understand how it all happens but I still think that these cycles are just part of the business. If you're lucky enough to get a major hit, then congratulations. You get to sit at the top of the ratings until another station knocks you off with the next big thing. It's not for a lack of trying by NBC or any of the other stations. Eventually something just clicks with an audience and bam, you're back on top. So again, NBC tried and I'm sure thought they had a great thing going with moving Leno to primetime but clearly it didn't work.
The only guess I'll make as to why the Leno move ended up not working out is possibly because the audience that usually watches Leno probably isn't going to abandon their normal TV routine and potentially miss a show they're dedicated to. Let's take a look at what the other stations out there do at 10 pm:
ABC - Monday: Castle, Tuesday: Lost, Wednesday: Modern Family/Cougar Town/Better Off Ted (I know one of these comes on at 10, just not sure which), Thursday: Private Practice, Friday: 20/20
CBS - Monday: CSI Miami, Tuesday: The Good Wife, Wednesday: CSI NY, Thursday: The Mentalist, Friday: Numb3rs
FOX - Pretty sure the news is on every night at 10 on Fox. Someone correct me if this isn't right.
NBC - Jay Leno Show.
The point I'm trying to make is that if there are some really hardcore followers of some of these shows (i.e. Lost, either of the CSIs, maybe even Modern Family), how likely are you to just switch over?
In the day and age of DVR of course, this thinking kind of becomes a moot point. If you're a fan of both, you just record one and problem solved. But that still doesn't always give networks the ratings they want. The Nielsen Ratings are finally taking into account how DVR viewing affects the numbers, but at least according to this study, DVR use doesn't always act in a network's favor. The first page of the study says:
Programs recorded between 8pm and 9pm were played back within the same day more often than those airing at 10pm. Consequently, DVR playback may have impacted live viewership of programs at 10pm and later.
If that is the case, then unfortunately Leno would fall into that 10 pm slot where live viewership is being impacted.
Okay so what's my point. That this has nothing to do with Conan. Leno isn't a "primetime" kind of guy but he and NBC decided to take the risk and now that it hasn't worked out, Conan gets the shaft. Not fair.
So I hope Conan gets picked up elsewhere. He should have a decent following now because of all of this and moreso because he chose to not play the victim. I think landing on FOX would be a good move for him as I feel like FOX needs a personality like him. Fans of Glee, American Idol and 24 strike me as the demographic that would stick around to watch Conan. I definitely want to give him a chance after all of this.