NBC chief says late-night debacle "Shakespearean"
By James Hibberd
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With Conan O'Brien departing NBC on Friday and Jay Leno resuming control of "The Tonight Show," NBC Universal TV entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the shake-up and what happens next:
WHAT IS JAY LENO'S "TONIGHT SHOW" GOING TO BE LIKE -- HIS PREVIOUS "TONIGHT" OR "THE JAY LENO SHOW"? WILL HE STILL HAVE HIS CONTRIBUTORS? THE RACE TRACK?
(Executive producer) Debbie Vickers and Jay are working on that now. My guess is it will be a hybrid. They're going to make some alterations to the studio to make it more intimate. There's elements of the current show they like, and there's elements from "The Tonight Show" they'd like to bring back. I would be surprised if they didn't bring back the desk and a couch, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a new desk and couch.
ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT LENO'S POPULARITY MAY HAVE SUFFERED? DO YOU EXPECT HIM TO PULL THE SAME NUMBERS ON "TONIGHT" THAT HE HAD BEFORE ALL THIS?
I think Leno will be competitive at 11:35 p.m., I think his fan base is very strong and they will welcome him back. I don't think they're paying nearly as much attention to what's going on as we are.
YOU TRIED TO KEEP BOTH, BUT YOU HAD TO MAKE A CHOICE BETWEEN KEEPING JAY LENO AND CONAN O'BRIEN. WHAT MAKES LENO THE BETTER FIT FOR NBC?
I did want to keep both. But if you look at the business of it as a practical matter, when I knew I was going to have to make a change at 10 p.m., I looked at the facts. "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" was (anticipated) to lose many millions of dollars at 11:35 p.m. If you looked at the ratings, affiliates were down 14%, "The Tonight Show" was down 49% -- this is year-to-year for full fourth quarter. As a practical matter, it made sense to try and come up with some other formula for late-night.
IS THERE A LESSON TO BE LEARNED BY ALL THIS? Continued...