Sunday, January 17, 2010

Leno vs Conan - On and On

The drama surrounding the Leno/Conan controversy continues to be a major entertainment news topic. As we uncover past statements and strategic moves by both Jay Leno and NBC, Conan only looks more spurned than ever.

This whole situation pushes our buttons because it reflects what is currently going on in so many Americans lives. Corporate America made promises to many people and then labeled them “expendable” as soon as something more lucrative entered the picture.

We now live in a working society where there’s no gold watch waiting for us or even a “nice job” pat on the back. No, we are asked to put our jobs first, above our families, and make the companies we work for number one in our lives. Our working mantra is “I’m lucky to have a job.” It’s no wonder, that even though we don’t make millions of dollars, we have a very visceral feel when it comes to how Conan is being treating by NBC.

In the past couple of weeks, Conan’s ratings have soared. We’re tuning in every night to vicariously live through him as he sticks it to NBC. At this point, the situation is unfixable in the sense that NBC can no longer salvage its relationship with Conan. Sure O’Brien is set to get a huge buyout, but much like a professional athlete, the money is nice, but you live to play the game. Conan will be back and though the experts say that Leno will once again emerge unscathed, don’t be so sure.

Leno may win back his old viewers at 11:35, but it’s our numbers that cannot be counted on. People on Team Conan is the demographic that these bigwig executives cannot seem to understand. Most of us grew up with cable and our kids experienced a variety of choices on television their entire lives. This 25-49 demographic is a new beast. We’re not going to watch Leno because nothing else is on. Not only can we watch infomercials, we can play videos and power up our laptops to watch YouTube, or watch whatever is waiting in the wings on our DVR lists.

Then, once Conan re-tools and joins FOX, we’ll all be ready for him. Don’t forget the fact that FOX will actually promote Conan’s show…something NBC failed at miserably. They spent so much advertising revenue on Leno’s move to primetime, it’s a wonder anyone even knew that O’Brien was taking over The Tonight Show.

I expect Conan’s supporters to come out in full force, and much like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, it’s likely that Conan will be happier in the end. He’ll have a bit more freedom at FOX. They will not expect or need him to bring in the kind of numbers NBC wanted. The pie, however, will be sliced too thin at this point and someone will need to go. My prediction is that Jimmy Kimmel will suffer the first blow, and then NBC will have to finally concede and can Leno once and for all. Our sweet “deer in the headlights” Fallon will end up with the coveted Johnny Carson seat and he will finally give NBC what they wanted all this time. I’ll still be watching Conan though.

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