NBC knows drama. The network hit the off-switch for Jay Leno’s prime-time TV experiment this week, and what’s ensued is akin to an audience laugh track. After airing for only a few short months, why pull the plug?
With Leno serving as the lead-in, local NBC stations saw their follow-up late news audience drop by an average of 25% from 2008, with larger markets New York (48%), Philly (47%), and LA (43%) leading the loss categories, according to research firm Harmelin Media.
For NBC affiliates, who clamored for canceling the show since its inception, this wasn’t news—it was affirmation.
Their preeminent plan to please the masses first involved Leno at 11:35, followed by Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight” show at 12:05 with a string of late-late shows lagging even further behind. Conan’s retort, which will rightfully be reviewed as perfection in PR classroom case studies for years to come, nixed NBC’s plan of inviting everyone to the late-night party.
A buyout of Conan coming soon, NBC has placed the party in-charge of the ratings plummet back in place; Leno will once again look out from behind his Late Night desk.
Is Leno the right leader or will fans continue their boredom-borne boycott? One thing is certain, NBC didn’t stop to ask the audience; they simply forged on with what they figured would work best, which is strikingly similar to the start of the melodrama.
NBC outright negated cries from their customers—doubled down when considering affiliates as well—for four months as they forged on with Leno’s weeknight work despite disastrously sour ratings. Possibly done to save dough, after all one live show is infinitely cheaper to produce than five dramas, they’re now left broke with naught but the hope of bringing viewers back.
Perhaps it’s time NBC leaves the monologues to their hosts and opens a dialogue with viewers; then again, at least they got a laugh out of their ratings.
Here’s to hoping you let freedom ring as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend.