Looks like NBC’s experiment of having Jay Leno on five nights a week during prime time has been aborted, as NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin just announced to the Television Critics Association that Jay’s nightly show will no longer be airing at 10p.m.
“We realized we had to make a change,” Gaspin said, referring to the near-disastrous ratings that Leno had been earning since moving his late-night chat fest to 10:00, taking up a slot long-reserved for dramas like ER and investigative news shows like Dateline.
Leno will continue with his show through Fri., Feb. 12. This coincides with the beginning of two weeks of Winter Olympics coverage on NBC.
Gaspin said NBC has spoken to Jay, Conan O’Brien — who took over the Tonight Show following Leno’s retirement at the end of last season — and Jimmy Fallon — who took over for Conan at 12:35am when he moved up a time slot — and has “proposed” that Leno’s show air in a 30-minute format at 11:35pm, with the Tonight Show moving to 12:05am, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 1:05am.
“Talks are still ongoing,” Gaspin said. “Everybody has the weekend to think about it.”
He did reveal all three hosts were “incredibly gracious and professional” when asked about the proposed new time lineup.
Gaspin stressed the idea isn’t a done deal, saying that “we’ll get back into conversations tomorrow,” with Jay, Conan and Jimmy.
Leno’s show has disappointed in the ratings at 10 p.m. “There were so many choices people thought were better,” Gaspin admitted, though he claimed is wasn’t low ratings, but pressure from network affiliates — who were unhappy with having Leno as a lead-in to their local news broadcasts — that ultimately forced NBC to evict Leno from prime time.