Starting today's presentation by addressing the elephant in the room, NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin announced that as of February 12, Jay Leno will no longer be airing at 10 PM. Gaspin still stands by the show's quality, but admits that the dramatic competition on network and cable -- plus now from people using the hour to catch up with viewing from their DVRs -- was just too daunting of competition for Jay and his format. The show has just not performing where it needed to be, Gaspin admitted.
(This despite the network's assurances at the upfront back in May that this was a "52-week strategy," where Leno would prove his worth over time, especially as his show in originals would supposedly beat other networks' repeats. "I think over time it would have started to grow. Over time we would have had a much greater time to see it grow. For the network, it was not a wrong decision," he maintains. But as Gaspin now says, as the NBC affiliates, upset about their declining 11 PM newscast ratings from Jay's lead-in, began to revolt and threaten pre-emption, something had to be done now.)
The plan going forward, he said, is still tentative. "I'd like to say that it was a done deal," he admitted, but so far, this is just a proposal, with the late-night hosts being "incredibly gracious and professional" about NBC and its messy situation, but not yet officially on board with the change. And that change is, for Jay Leno to air in a half-hour show at 11:35, for Conan and his Tonight Show to air at 12:05, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to push back to a 1:05 AM start.
Filling the 10 PM slot? Gaspin admits that he doesn't know, but admits he's been thinking about it for a while -- and expects to wait until the last minute to announce when listings are due. "That's what you do when you put together a schedule," he said. "You wait to see what your competitors are doing." But Gaspin does say that, with those 5 hours of network real estate now freed up, he expects we'll see 2 more hours of scripted dramas on NBC, 1 more hour of reality (ugh!), and an expanded Dateline NBC and/or repeats. Sadly, he did not mention additional room for comedies, which used to be NBC's hallmark back in its heyday.
Another change for NBC: going back to the traditional plan of presenting an "upfront" for advertisers in New York, this year on May 17. It's a departure from the earlier, boastful and somewhat hubris-filled plan of going straight to series with shows like Knight Rider and Bionic Woman, which ultimately fizzled creatively.
More details as the critics undoubtedly continue to grill Gaspin and NBC President Angela Bromstad.