Monday, January 18, 2010

The Tonight Show R.I.P.

Well Jay, it only took you 17 years, but you've finally killed The Tonight Show.

The problem is that Leno's ratings at 10:00 are abysmal. He couldn't maintain the numbers that he got when he was on at 11:35. You'd expect someone with such a "loyal fanbase" would have pulled in all those viewers and then some. Who moves an entire hour and a half earlier in the evening and loses viewers? Leno should have conceivably had higher ratings because millions of more people are watching television at that time of the evening. They talk about his large fan base. Where were they? They certainly didn't follow him to his new show, or didn't stick around very long.

Alternatively, Conan's ratings aren't as good as Leno's, but they're certainly not as terrible as everyone makes them out to be. For much of Conan's tenure on the Tonight Show his ratings have hovered near Letterman's, been a little behind Letterman's, or been better than Letterman's. About a third each. One could point out that Conan's only been on at 11:35 for 7 months and that Dave should have an astronomical lead since he's been doing the same show for 17 years.

Conan's fan base on Late Night was always smaller than the fan base of The Tonight Show at that time. Conan's show aired an hour later. Most people can't stay up until 12:37 let alone 11:35. Are they as good as when Leno was up against Letterman? No, but Leno's were never even close to what Johnny Carson got when he was on the air so the "lower ratings" argument is all academic.

Leno not only hurt the Evening news, but the ripples of low viewership even made their way to the Tonight Show. Had they dropped Leno and I fully expected that the ratings would have increased for the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

Leno's new show failed. NBC is rewarding his failure by giving him his old time slot back. What kind of backwards mentality is that?

(More to Come)

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