The difference between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien





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Published on Jan 24, 2010

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I personally like both shows Jay Tonight Show, Conan Late Show. They did different things. The Tonight Show goes back to the 50's with Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. Carson hosted for 30 years to age 67. No one owns the Tonight Show. This current problem started in 2004 when NBC promised Conan O'Brien the Tonight Show to keep him from leaving during contract negotiations. At the time Jay Leno was #1 in late night as he was the last 15 of the 17 years he was host.

Conan O'Brien played hard ball in 2004 and by his negotiations forced Leno out. Leno did seem to go along and that was his fault. He should have said NO and made his own threats. In 2004 Leno was only 54 and was only host 12 years at the time. However he went along, which was Jays fault. No one really thought he was doing this with out pressure. You could tell he was not happy, despite the happy face. At the time it seemed bizarre to everyone. Even Conan fans say they should have left it alone. However Conan wanted the Tonight Show. The idea I guess was in 5 years Leno would not be #1 any more? Leno's ratings were stronger than ever when he left in 2009 for Conan to take over. The audience is limited at that hour, and Leno was already beating Letterman by double for almost all of his time as Host. Conan could do better? What was the logic?

Jay Leno got double the ratings of Letterman on the Tonight Show to the time he stepped down last year. In the 7 months Conan O'Brien had the Tonight show ratings were bad and Letterman was now number one with double the ratings of NBC. People blame Leno for Conan's bad ratings, but Conan had bad ratings from the start, before Leno went back on air at 10PM. Leno plays better to middle America and people like the familiar. I still liked both.

Because the network affiliates were losing local News lead-in audience they put pressure to end the 10PM Leno show after only 4 months. No doubt by the NBC suits in 2004 did not think of that. Leno was doing as well as expected and Conan was performing well below expected. The solution was to move the Tonight Show 30 min back and have Leno do 30 min show from 11:35 to 12:05. I would have liked to see that. However one person did not agree, Conan.

Conan playing hard ball came out with a public declaration and said NO and he would Quit. He did and put his staff of 200 out of work. Conan quit over a TIME SLOT.... Many people don't watch TV live and record shows including the Tonight Show and Late Night. I think Conan should have tried the later slot. Like in Conan's 2004 negotiations he threatened to quit, which he did again in 2010. This time NBC accepted his resignation and paid him $33 million. Conan made about $8 million a year for the Late Show for the 16 years he was on. He also was a writer on SNL. My estimate is he made well over $150 Million in his 20 years with NBC, not including all the other perks and benefits.

BEING THE HOST OF THE LATE SHOW IS NOT A GUARANTEE YOU WILL BECOME THE HOST OF THE TONIGHT SHOW. It does not work that way, except in the minds of Letterman and Conan, both former host of the NBC Late Show. I think Leno is the fall guy for decisions made by NBC. Leno is NICE and has rarely if ever attacked others or been mean. Leno's go along attitude caused some of this, but I doubt this was his master plan.

The most vocal critics from the Host/Comedian community is no surprise, Dave Letterman and Rosie O'Donnell, both hate Leno because they feel he cheated them. Again it was NBC's decision to pick him in 1992. Knowing Letterman and O'Donnell today, NBC got that decision right. May be Letterman should retire and hire Conan as the new host?


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