Late-night TV hosts are still looking for honor, possibly a good TV movie of the week about themselves. Does it matter?
In response to Jay Leno's return to "The Tonight Show," Conan O'Brien says in an upcoming CBS' "60 Minutes" interview that "if roles had been reversed, I know -- I know me, I wouldn't have done that."
Reversal. That's part of the entertainment marketing formula TV counts on to thrive. TV talent and executives are built up, torn down, and then, if things work out -- brought back for a return.
Nice TV or film story. Though we have seen it before, intense television fans love the drama on -- and off -- the screen. It keeps TV consumer and business magazines hopping.
The next story: Will there be a return for O'Brien? How about NBC and its fortunes -- or that of its highly criticized chief executive Jeff Zucker?
Twenty million dollars? Thirty million dollars? O'Brien says he would have turned NBC down if the roles were reversed. Will consumers still be intrigued over this story come November, when he gets back on the air at TBS?
Leno is now back at "The Tonight Show" with a 1.1 to 1.0 rating among 18-49 viewers, while CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman" is hovering around a 0.9. This isn't good.
"The Tonight Show" is still down 38% from the 1.6 to 1.7 rating level O'Brien was at when finishing his first run of "The Tonight Show" in the summer of 2009. How does NBC sell "The Tonight Show" during this upfront? It may get to worry less. The good news is that the advertising market appears very strong.
Despite what O'Brien said was his problem with Leno, viewers may look at it differently.
Starting around five years ago as NBC as host of "The Tonight Show," Leno told viewers -- on the air -- that he wanted to retire and spend time with his wife, and leave everything to O'Brien. He was told to say that publicly because of what NBC dictated: which was for him to leave. But as we now know, that wasn't the truth.
Leno is now looking for a complete reversal of fortune of his own. But does he deserve that? Forget about what he did to O'Brien. Forget about what NBC made him do. Leno said: "This is all business." Yes, it is. So when you tell your consumers who buy your product what you are about, you'd better deliver.
The end result, from a business and marketing point of view, is that some of Leno's viewers were cheated -- and maybe even his advertisers.