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September 4, 2015

Don't celebrate Leno's low ratings just yet

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 7th 2009 11:22AM
Jay Leno at Summer TCAsThe funniest thing about the season so far is that, after all the attention NBC's move to put Jay Leno at 10 PM generated through the spring and summer, The Jay Leno Show itself has been getting very little in the way of audience or viral buzz.

The former was to be expected; no one thought Leno was going to beat out CSI. But the latter is a shock. Conan hits his head and the clip is all over the Internet; Dave talks about being blackmailed and CBS can't pull down the YouTube clips fast enough. But since Kanye West's teary apology to Taylor Swift on Leno's first show, nothing that's happened at ten has been funny enough or newsworthy enough to make a dent in the pop culture consciousness.

But those among you who are rooting for this experiment to fail, it's not time to break out the Champagne just yet. Although Leno's ratings are low and continue to sink, NBC isn't pulling the plug anytime soon. And the reason why is the most intriguing part of this whole experiment.

Remember that the folks at NBC have been saying all along that Leno doesn't need to get prime-time-level ratings for the show to make a profit. In addition, as the network mentioned in the USA Today article linked above, they're going to look at the year-round picture, especially when a new Leno show is up against reruns of everything else (I'd imagine the first test of that will come around Thanksgiving, and definitely during the late-December lull).

It doesn't seem to matter to the Peacock folks that Leno's show does any of the traditional numbers, nor does it seem to matter to them that the show doesn't have the "long tail" that reruns or DVD sales or syndication sales would bring. It just cares about how much money the show makes right now. And that's something that the people who are closely watching the show's ratings are going to have problems wrapping their minds around, because they're used to the equation that low ratings equal sure cancellation.

The more worrisome thing that NBC should be looking at is how Leno's ratings are dragging down the rest of the network. As the article points out, Conan's ratings have slipped since Leno's debut, affiliate's news ratings are down, and some of the former 10 PM shows like L&O: SVU are getting hammered at 9 PM. If anyone wants to see this grand plan fail, you should be looking at those numbers instead of Leno's.

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Conan's ratings are sagging because HE'S NOT FUNNY. He's an awful interviewer (2nd only to the all time most awful, Regis!) and too busy thinking of something cute to say to LISTEN to his guest. As long as Conan is on at 11:30, I'm not watching NBC.

October 11 2009 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon M.

Jake G...Conan is not doing a stellar job as Leno's replacement. He is averaging 2.5 million viewers per night, which is 1/2 of what Leno had on the Tonight Show. A lot of those viewers are now watching Letterman. Conan sucks, he should never have been given the Tonight Show mantle.

October 08 2009 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Basically NBC is giving up 10pm to their competitors, who can charge greater ad revenue as a result. And I disagree they're making money, because I think they're losing money as a whole with this move. NBC is such a wasteland these days. Whomever is programming the channel did a great job running it into the ground. Outside of the Office, I don't have another show that I'm following on NBC. It makes it quite easy to program my DVR, because I can just about avoid NBC in it's entirety. It actually crossed my mind to remove the channel since I don't watch it anymore. Can always catch the Office on Hulu or DVD.

October 08 2009 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't understand NBC's execs in charge. They had very good shows that I don't fell were marketed right, and alot of shows that were canceled too early. I mean were getting a short season of Chuck which is one of my favortie shows, and last season they canceled Life which was a great show that NBC messed up.

I hope the Leno experiment fails horribly. I am not a Jay basher I just think if you stepped down stay down.

October 07 2009 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jake G

I highly doubt this can go on for too much longer. With advertising spending going down, Leno's sinking ratings can only be feasable for so long. Conan has been doing a stellar job as Leno's replacement. If Conan were to be "moved back" into Fallon's spot, or dropped completely, and Leno was moved back to his old spot, that would create a rift between viewers.

NBC needs to figure out its primetime programming dilema, fast. Its only a matter of time that they won't have any good shows left on the network.

October 07 2009 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's an interesting trend I didn't anticipate: Affiliates are losing ratings on their 11 o'clock news broadcasts because of Jay! (http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/bal-zontv-leno-1002,0,6818228.story) If NBC pisses off enough of them, I wonder if they'll take some kind of action?

October 07 2009 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm not a Leno fan but I don't know if this would have worked with Carson in his prime and not much competition, let alone now with Leno having been on TV for two decades and competing against cable/satellite/DVD/etc.

The idea was stupid to begin with, and only happened because they promised O'Brien the Tonight Show five years ago. They didn't want Leno to go to another network and beat them so this was their solution. But asking affiliates with plummeting local news ratings to hang on until rerun season is not going to work either.

A year from now, Leno will be back on at 11:30 ET as if nothing ever happened, and NBC will have yet another weak ad campaign along the lines of "this is what you wanted all along, America" and they'll pretend Conan O'Brien never existed.

October 07 2009 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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