Thursday, January 14, 2010

For all of Conan O'Brien's whining about being pushed back, keep in mind that his troubles are attributable to one simple fact: his ratings are not as good as Jay Leno's ratings are.

If O'Brien had better ratings, no one at NBC would be talking about moving him out of the 11:35 time slot. And as far as his complaint that he hasn't gotten that much time to improve his ratings, most TV shows that get lousy ratings don't get months and months, they get canceled. And given that O'Brien has had a show for years (unlike Leno when he first took over from Johnny Carson), apropos of the Passover question, why should anyone expect his ratings to get better over time? If there was something O'Brien could tweak with his show to improve ratings, why wouldn't he have already done it?

And for O'Brien's supposed reverence for the 11:35 time slot, it looks pretty clear that the majority of the audience at that hour doesn't want the type of show that he (and Letterman) want to do, they're more receptive (as proven by the ratings) for the type of show Leno puts on.

The big mistake NBC made wasn't in moving Leno to prime time, it was agreeing to give O'Brien the Tonight Show slot in the first place. They saw O'Brien as a talent they didn't want to lose, unfortunately for all involved, his talent isn't at 11:35 but rather at a later time.