Late Night Wars
From a business strategy point of view, it's hard to imagine a company doing a worse job. It's not about putting Leno on at ten. That was stupid, but redeemable. The issue is this: once it became clear that the affiliates were unhappy and that NBC would have to make a change at 10, it proceeded to brutally mismanage its most valuable assets. Leno was the clear winner at 11:35, Letterman a distant second. Leno was hugely popular with middle America - affable, likable, middle of the road - so it didn't matter that his peers in Hollywood disliked him. Conan was the edgy winner at 12:35 - smart, weird, popular with the cool kids, lots of room to grow. The Tonight Show was the gold standard of late-night television - the mantle of the legendary Johnny Carson. Now? Well, NBC faces an audience who thinks Jay Leno is selfish jerk, a Hollywood community that very publicly sided with Conan, a revitalized and feisty Letterman across the dial, no Conan at all and tarnished franchise. All in one fell swoop. Well done NBC, well done.
Oh and by the way, Leno was on Oprah yesterday. Click here to read what his body language said. And here to read about what his words said. For those who missed it, here's the short version: "I'm a pompous ass. And you would be too if you could. Neener, neener."