NBC War: Leno Loses Primetime, Conan Maybe Next
NBC confirmed rumors swirling about the network’s late-night lineup on Sunday that Jay Leno’s ratings-challenged primetime show would be pushed back to his old timeslot. Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show either will be moved back to midnight or the host will leave the network as part of the shake up. “While [Leno] was performing at acceptable levels for the network, it did not meet our affiliates’ needs, and we realized we had to make a change," said NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin. "My goal right now is to keep Jay, Conan [O’Brien], and Jimmy [Fallon] as part of our late-night lineup."
Adding to the intrigue, Fox is expected to make a play for O’Brien, whose audience is younger and fits with the network’s demographics, though they would have to match the host’s $45 million two-year deal with NBC. With tensions running high, O’Brien discussed the situation with humor in his Friday-night monologue. "Both of our shows will be on at 11:30 running simultaneously in split screen," he quipped, rattling off the rumors. "Jay and I will be joining the cast of Jersey Shore as a new character called ‘The Awkward Situation’… NBC is going to throw me and Jay in a pit with sharpened sticks. The one who crawls out leave gets to leave NBC – trust me, that is an appealing proposition."
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