NBC entertainment chief Jeff
Gaspin said the network is pulling the plug on The Jay Leno Show beginning
February 12, and there are currently active negotiations underway to try and
keep Leno and Conan O'Brien on NBC.
Gaspin said he is trying to put
Leno at 11:35 for a half hour, followed by O'Brien's Tonight Show at
12:05 a.m. and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 1:05 a.m.
As for the demise of the Jay
Leno experiment at 10, Gaspin acknowledged stations were a big part of the
decision. He said affiliates "started to talk about the possibility
"Starting February 12, The
Jay Leno Show will no longer air at 10 p.m." Gaspin told the media at
the TCA press tour in Pasadena.
"While it was performing at acceptable levels for the network, it did not
meet our affiliates' needs and we realized we had to make a change."
Gaspin said he does not have a
10 p.m. plan set going forward.
"We're working on that
now," Gaspin said. "I can promise you I will wait till the very
last second...that's what you do when you work on a schedule."
Following the TCA session, Gaspin indicated that at least
two of NBC's series that have struggled in the ratings--Chuck and Trauma--may
have a better chance of staying on the air given the real estate that is
opening up at 10. However, when asked whether he might borrow programs from
sibling NBCU cable nets USA,
Syfy or Bravo, he said, "I doubt I will do that."
Gaspin said he would have vastly preferred to have waited
until a full year of the Leno experiment was completed, as it would have
allowed time for more new program development to come to fruition. "I would
have much preferred to wait until September, but I had to signal to the
affiliates we would like to make the change," Gaspin said.
The mounting pressure from affils truly "drove" this
decision, he said, particularly as the November sweeps results came in, proving
the crushing impact on stations' late local newscasts at 11. "A third of
affiliates were really hurt and incredibly concerned," Gaspin said, and talks
about preemptions of The Jay Leno Show escalated through the end of the
year. "We could have lived with one or two preemptions, but we got the sense
from the affiliate board it would have been a lot more," he said.
In a move to head off mass preemptions and affils going more
public with their displeasure, Gaspin said that late last year he approached
his boss, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker, who initiated the Leno-at-10
move, and informed Zucker he needed to make a change at the start of the year.
When asked if this decision was 100% his, Gaspin said, "Like any decision I had
to get my boss' approval," but that the announced plan was essentially his.
Zucker "challenged me every step of the way but in the end he did not
disagree," Gaspin said.
The move will cost the network more than leaving Leno
in place would have, Gaspin confirmed, but he said the move will ultimately
play out positively for NBC "net-net," with a combination of anticipated ratings
boosts and a hopefully better ad market.
Gaspin said talks resume on Monday with the talent involved
in the proposed late-night lineup and their reps. He described the tenor so far
as "gracious." That goes, too, for his experience negotiating with O'Brien's
agent and WME topper Ari Emanuel, the inspiration for the bombastic Ari Gold
character on Entourage. When asked how it's been to deal with Emanuel,
Gaspin said with a laugh: "It's not been nearly as bad as I thought it would
As for the challenge of reconfiguring a programming plan set
by his predecessors, Gaspin said he knew what he was getting into when he took
on a heightened role a few months ago. "This is part of the job--I get it. This
is the exciting part of the job. This in particular isn't necessarily fun,"
Gaspin said. "But I get that this is part of the job."
Melissa Grego contributed to this report.