the network is about to yank The Jay Leno Show off the air.
The rumor today is that the show is going to be sent packing in February, with the Winter Olympics taking over for the next two weeks. Now we are hearing that Jay Leno will reemerge in the 11:30 timeslot he vacated before, possibly with a half-hour show, to be followed by Conan O'Brien.
In any event, no one wins in this scenario. Jay loses prime time and doesn't even get back his full hour in late night in this scenario; Conan O'Brien gets pushed backwards into the night, and who knows what happens with Jimmy Fallon, Carson Daly, or Poker After Dark. Presumably NBC will put in dramas to replace Leno in prime time. Apparently they upped their pilot order to 18 shows, a sure sign they want to fill the 10pm slot with fresh replacements.
The reasons for the moves are obvious: the NBC schedule from 10pm on has been a total disaster. Because Jay's ratings have been in the toilet in prime time, the affiliates have had a hard time getting ratings for their local news at 11pm/10 Central time, and because the local news ratings have been so bad, Conan O'Brien's show has taken a hit. Conan's new Tonight Show gig has been a flop, overall; he has been beaten by both Letterman and by Nightline.
Word is that the affiliates are the ones most unhappy with the situation. They are the ones who have been pushing for changes, we hear, due to the ratings bath they have suffered with their late local news. Also, it seems the bean counters at NBC are saying the network is losing more money with Leno at 10pm than they were losing before when he was at 11:30pm.
Right now, it's still a lot of conjecture about what will happen. I think giving Jay a half hour show at 11:30pm sounds like an absolutely insulting offer to him and another potential disaster waiting to happen. In fact, I even wonder if Jay and Conan are going to even go along with this plan. This entire situation is a mess, and while the network is putting on a brave face and issuing a lot of denials that this is happening, it's clear something big is up over there. Expect more to come on this situation in the next while.