Didn’t they go down this road before?
Steve Allen started the show many years ago.
Exactly...not too long ago, NBC was scared to death that Conan O’Brien would jump ship, and they’d be stuck with Leno and declining ratings. So, they gave O’Brien The Tonight Show, and stuck Leno at 10 pm eastern, five nights a week. Gee, how did that work out? O’Brien bombed, and Leno was back at 11:30 barely nine months later.
Now, barely three years later, NBC is going to do it again. Fallon is supposedly the next “superstar” of late night, the host who will juice the ratings at 11:30, especially among the 18-49 demographic.
I’ve been out of broadcasting for decades, but I understand that the audience at 11:30 is much different than the crowd that tunes in at 12:30. A lot of the younger crowd is on-line, partying or otherwise engaged during the late news and the first half hour of Tonight. Conversely, the viewer who stays up for Leno’s monologue is usually asleep by the time Jimmy Fallon hits the airwaves. Much of Fallon’s current audience won’t follow him to 11:30, just as Conan O’Brien’s didn’t.
Also worth remembering that Conan and Jimmy look good(in part) because of the lead-in that Leno delivers. Despite a general decline in viewership between 11:30 and 12:30, Leon has consistently won the late-night wars for 20 years.
Fallon will flop on The Tonight Show, just as O’Brien did. And a year or so down the road, NBC will be writing another $40 million check to buy out Fallon and his staff.
Someone once observed that baseball managers, politicians and network TV executives are the only jobs where you get a chance to make the same mistakes, over and over and over again—and make a good living to boot.
In its long history as a TV network, NBC has had only one programming executive (Pat Weaver) who was a true geniue (he created both the Today and Tonight shows), and another who was close (Brandon Tartikoff, who brought the network back from the dead in the 80s). Both of those gentlemen are now deceased, and NBC is pretty damn close.