NBC's Jay Leno could be on his way out -- again. This time Jimmy Fallon could be angling for the NBC "Tonight" show job, according to reports. Haven't we kind of heard this story before? (Last time it was Conan O'Brien from the same "Late Night" show).
Now there's a slightly different environment -- one of which includes the January move of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live” to 11:35 p.m., creating a three-way race among network entertainment talk shows. “Kimmel” has the potential of eating into "Tonight Show" and CBS’ "Late Show" audiences, as well as luring more young-skewing late-night TV advertising money its way.
Also this time around, NBC is vulnerable for the first time in a long while at the other end of the day, with "Today" losing its top spot to ABC's "Good Morning America." Given NBC’s up and down prime-time fortunes, the peacock-logoed network doesn't want to deal with repairing two of its most prized franchises.
We have heard of a "succession" plan before -- that disastrous five-year-in-waiting plan from NBCUniversal chief Jeff Zucker that put Conan O'Brien into "The Tonight Show" job. The network reversed course a couple of months in, after ratings fell apart. It was also a complete failure -- with viewers, advertisers and talent.
Like it or not, Leno had good ratings before O'Brien moved in. After NBC reversed itself, "Leno" still maintained the top spot, but has been nowhere near as dominant. Now, "Kimmel" is making stuff even harder.
Given the young appeal of "Kimmel," it makes sense for NBC to consider the Fallon move -- but only if the network is indeed losing massive ground and finishing in second place. Right now that’s not the case. In the February sweeps, "Tonight" had 1.003 million 18-49 viewers, "Late Show" 929,000, and "Kimmel" 898,000. "Tonight" also bested the other two shows in total viewers: "Tonight" 3.5 million, "Late Show" 3.3 million, and "Kimmel" 2.5 million.
Still, when and if the change happens, NBC won't redo the O'Brien-Leno long, slow waltz. It'll be a quick cha-cha.
The change wouldn’t end there, though. Rumors abound that Howard Stern could be added to the mix as well -- by moving into Jimmy Fallon's spot on "Late Night" if and when Fallon heads to "Tonight."
Stern has already made himself prime-time-network worthy during his summer stint on "America's Got Talent,” putting aside pre-show worries that he might upset advertisers to go too far. All the bravado and reactionary pre-show protests by TV pressure groups amounted to nothing.
Does NBC need this kind of press and attention at the moment? Hey, that might take one's mind off the network's tenuous hold on prime time, as it waits for a big return by "The Voice" and "Revolution."