Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2010 by David Chen
[Update: And it’s official. Leno will move back to 11:35 p.m. when the Winter Olympics are over at the end of February. Conan’s fate is still in flux.]
The LATimes has an interesting piece today chronicling the rise and fall of TV executive Jeff Zucker. Just over half a year ago, Zucker’s decision to move Leno into the 10 p.m. slot on NBC was widely regarded as one of the biggest TV bets we’d ever seen. But while Leno might have technically been profitable, NBC clearly failed to take into account their entire TV ecosystem, as Leno completely decimated the ratings of local affiliates. In fact, my local NBC affiliate, WHDH in Boston, almost refused to air Leno outright, but was eventually cowed into submission. Unfortunately, it now looks like they would have been better off striking out on their own.
With rumors that NBC’s entire prime time lineup will be reshuffled, the cost of the entire Leno debacle might end up being quite high. According to the LATimes, “Some veteran TV executives believe the Leno imbroglio could ultimately cost more than $200 million, including the damage inflicted on stations’ local newscasts, their ad rates and NBC programs, such as ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ which lost millions of viewers when its time period was changed. They predicted that it could take years for NBC to rebuild.” (emphasis added) Consider the $200 million number a back-of-the-envelope guess, but I don’t have any problem believing that this whole experiment has been nothing short of a financial disaster.
After the jump, Conan addresses the circulating rumors head on.