What we can learn from NBC’s mistakes.

You gotta give ’em some kind of credit, right?

Moving Jay Leno to 10 PM was an unprecedented move that had a lot of people wondering what in the ratings all those executives at NBC were smoking.

But it could’ve worked . . . and if it did, some executive would be smoking a big fat cigar as everyone called him or her brilliant.

It was a big move, a-shake-the-very-foundation-of-everything-we-know-to-be-true move.

And it failed.

But I gotta give someone the credit for giving it a shot.

It reminds me of this big baseball game I had in high school.  One of my good buddies was standing on third base.  We were down by one.  There was some sort of ruckus going on in the infield.  Coaches were yelling.  Players were yelling. But the ball was still live.  So, my sly-and-super-fast friend tried to steal home while everyone was distracted.

And it almost worked.

When he got called out at a tight play at home, my head coach looked at him and said, “What the *#&$ were you thinking?”

It was the Assistant Coach who leaned in and said, “He had a lead.  And if he would have made it, he would have been a hero.”

There are no heroes at NBC this week, and I imagine that someone is gonna lose their job, and, honestly, someone should.

But not because of the current fiasco.

This problem started years ago . . .

NBC’s mistake was made back in 2004.

In an effort to avoid a sequel to the late-night-war of the 90s, and in an effort to keep Conan happy, they put a little pressure on Jay to squeeze him out in 2009.  Obviously, Jay wasn’t ready to go, despite whatever he was saying at the time (spin, spin, spin).

It was that mistake that started the snowball rolling down the hill.  Come 2009, and in an effort to make Jay happy, they give him a 10 PM spot, which bombs.  He’s upset and now the affiliates are upset, so they come up with yet another unprecedented move and give him a 30-minute show?  And now O’Brien’s upset, oh and Fallon too because he just got bumped.  But wait, O’Brien doesn’t even want the 12:05 spot, so maybe they’ll lose him all together . . . and suddenly the very late-night-war that NBC was trying to avoid has erupted again, and made the earlier one look like a couple of kids playing Cowboys and Indians.

One of the most challenging things a Producer must learn to do is manage personalities, especially when dealing with stars.  If you don’t understand what they want, and don’t find a way to give them what they want (or make them feel good even when you can’t give them what they want), then you’ll lose the battle and the war . . . and most likely one of the key players in your line-up.

I don’t even think my Assistant Coach would have liked how this one played out.

Comments
  • B Teasley says:

    Ok, I’m trying to think as a producer. Here’s what I think went down:
    Back in 2004, Conan was going to leave and go to ABC. He made NBC publicly announce they will give him the Tonight Show, 5 years later. So NBC KEPT Conan for 5 years, which they would have LOST if they hadn’t succumbed to his obnoxious demands. So what they are PAYING now in costs is for something the earned from for the last 5 years.
    The 10pm show stunk. I’d put money on Conan insisting that Leno’s show NOT be like the 11:30pm show. So instead we get the “Green Corporate Car Challenge” or whatever that lame bit is called.. which is a commercial for some car company. Who the heck wants to watch this? Product placements are lame… and that was one of the lamest. So the ratings stink because the show was awful.
    So while NBC, the producer, is certainly losing now – you have to factor in what they gained by keeping Conan around for 5 years. He would have gone against Leno & Letterman and taken the younger demographic.

  • CL Jahn says:

    If you think NBC did something smart, then you must have a refrigerator full of New Coke. What Zucker did, was blink. He didn’t believe in his product, which was Jay Leno’s Late Show. #1 in the ratings, and he changed the formula? Sheer stupidity.
    Now he’s got bupkus. Leno’s a pariah, and O’Brien has absolutely nothing to lose by going somewhere else. Factor in Zucker’s blusterous “I’ll keep him off the air for three and a half years!” and any chance that people would remain loyal to the brand went down the tubes. We now know the brand is “Screw over our loyal employees.”
    I hope Conan doesn’t go to a network; he can kick Zucker in the balls by going to streaming internet.

  • Dan Mason says:

    Let’s be honest. Al-qaida is a better
    run network than NBC

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

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