Leno Would Welcome A Return To Late Night Jay Leno made the switch to prime time in September. His show has not been doing very well in the ratings lately. In a published interview, Leno said if NBC offered him The Tonight Show again, he would take it. Leno's low ratings come at a time when General Electric is said to be selling a stake in NBC Universal to cable company Comcast.
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Leno Would Welcome A Return To Late Night

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Leno Would Welcome A Return To Late Night

Leno Would Welcome A Return To Late Night

Leno Would Welcome A Return To Late Night

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Jay Leno made the switch to prime time in September. His show has not been doing very well in the ratings lately. In a published interview, Leno said if NBC offered him The Tonight Show again, he would take it. Leno's low ratings come at a time when General Electric is said to be selling a stake in NBC Universal to cable company Comcast.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're going to check in this morning on the fortunes of one of the big broadcast networks. NBC put �The Jay Leno Show" on the air five nights a week at 10 o'clock in the evening, a much-hyped move that doesn't seem to be working, at least not now. Entertainment reporter Kim Masters has been following this NBC drama from her perch in Los Angeles. Hi, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: And of course, the whole point was not to pay for a drama but to pay for something cheaper. And why isn't it working?

MASTERS: Well, people are not, you know, watching. That is, you know, it's good to be cheap, but if you have no ratings or very low ratings, that doesn't work. Now at this point, Leno has lost to a cable show, which is not the norm for a broadcast network. He lost to "Sons of Anarchy" on FX. And last week, he lost to a rerun on CBS, a rerun of "CSI: Miami." And that is not good because they've argued that he will be very strong against reruns, and now he's already, in the early stages, been beaten by a rerun.

INSKEEP: Now, I'm remembering that with the broadcast networks, the 10 o'clock programming is really important for the local station because they want something strong that delivers a bunch of viewers to their local, 11 o'clock news. Are the local stations suffering here?

MASTERS: The local stations are suffering badly, including, you know, ones that NBC owns: New York, down 22 percent in the newscast; Philadelphia, down 37 percent; Miami, down 30 percent. So as you can tell, the affect has not been good. And it also has not been good on, you know - Conan O'Brien, after the news, is doing much worse than Leno did in that slot. Jimmy Fallon, after Conan, is doing worse than Conan used to do in that slot. It's having a negative effect on the NBC schedule.

INSKEEP: Now, we should mention that Jay Leno has been in ratings trouble before and pulled out of it. What's he doing to respond to this?

MASTERS: He just gave an interview to a trade publication, Broadcasting & Cable, and it was kind of a combination of trying to show that he can take it, and that he would be just as happy to return to his old slot, should that occur. He - one of his quotes: What am I supposed to do, sit here and whine? Emotionally, I can take body shots all day long. But he is willing to return to 11:35 should the television gods decree it.

INSKEEP: Is that an option?

MASTERS: Well, of course it's an option. They'd have to pay Conan a lot of money, but NBC right now is sort of - they're kind of in denial. They're saying, this is great. They are not admitting that this is not working. And I think we will need to see some big changes at the top before anybody addresses the situation.

INSKEEP: What's it mean that NBC is having this ratings disaster - not just one night a week, but five nights a week in prime time- just as the parent company, General Electric, is trying to sell NBC Universal?

MASTERS: Well, I think the potential buyer here is Comcast, the cable operator, and they're not naive about the television business. They are smart guys. I think they understand what their problems are going to be if they acquire this company. And you know, they're looking at a bigger picture. NBC is part of NBC Universal. That includes a film studio, Universal Studios, which is also troubled right now but nonetheless, one of the few remaining major film studios.

And it includes the jewels in the crown, these cable channels like USA and Bravo. There's been some thought, will they make NBC into a cable channel? Is the broadcast model so broken that it's not worth trying to salvage NBC? I don't think it's there yet. Broadcast is still the biggest aggregator of eyeballs, and I think that should Comcast acquire this company, which feels - you know the word beshert, Steve?

INSKEEP: No, I don't.

MASTERS: Beshert is a Yiddish word. It means meant to be. It feels very much like this Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal is going to happen. There are a lot of little issues along the way, but it feels that Comcast has wanted to be in the content business for a long time. GE needs and wants to get out of this business, and I think if Comcast does make this deal, they'll roll up their sleeves, and they will try to fix things at NBC.

INSKEEP: Kim Masters was beshert to be on MORNING EDITION this morning. Kim, thanks very much.

MASTERS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: She hosts member station KCRW's show "The Business."..COST: $00.00

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