Reports that NBC is quietly planning to dump top-rated Jay Leno has some Hollywood insiders baffled.
Though NBC hasn’t officially announced any changes to its late-night lineup, multiple media outlets and sources suggest the network intends to replace the longtime Tonight Show host with Late Night‘s Jimmy Fallon by the end of next year. One common reaction among some broadcast and late-night veterans goes like this: NBC is the lowest-rated major broadcast network, yet Leno is the No. 1 late-night host. Fallon is currently averaging two-thirds of Leno’s 18-49 rating and half his viewership. Dumping Leno — especially within the next year — seems ill advised; like a man falling off a building who lights his hair on fire.
“I’m still trying to make sense of it,” says one late-night insider not affiliated with NBC. “I don’t understand it on many levels. I don’t understand why a network doing so badly looks at the one part that’s winning and says, ‘Let’s create chaos there.’ They already created a s–t storm at the Today show. Why would they want to create drama in late night?”
A couple insiders noted the move feels like NBC is making the same mistake as when its previous executive team gave Conan O’Brien The Tonight Show in 2009, then were forced to embarrassingly renege on the deal a year later after Leno’s short-lived 10 p.m. show failed. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,” one broadcast insider says. While another network executive expressed the same idea more bluntly: “It’s so f–king hilarious that NBC won’t learn from its past experiences.” It should be pointed out, however, that Leno’s prime-time show had ratings that would now would be a blessing on some nights for NBC. READ FULL STORY