So far all this NBC mishegas has cost the network and its affiliates plenty of dough, not to mention programming credibility, viewer goodwill and general pop culture coolness. Some estimates have pegged Jay Leno's move to 10 p.m. as costing NBC affiliates some $7 million a month due to a 25% drop in late-night news watchers. Then there's the untangling of the Conan O'Brien rumpus that could result in a $25-$50 million payout to O'Brien should the two camps part ways, which seems inevitable at this point. To say nothing of what the gimpy ratings for both Leno's show and The Tonight Show have done for NBC. So finding some sort of silver lining in the mess can be a challenge.
But we're totally up for it! For one thing, according to a report today, recent ratings for O'Brien's program have hovered around 3, well up from the 2.2 average he was carrying prior to the network's disaster. Even better news for NBC, if not Conan O'Brien: In the all-important 18 to 49 year olds demo, Tonight Show ratings have climbed from a paltry 1 to 1.8. There is a vast range in what a 30-second TV spot can fetch—according to this survey, ads on Leno's 10 p.m. program could be had for less than the cost of a tricked-out Lexus, while American Idol can command close to half a million bucks—so these .8 ratings ticks for O'Brien matter a lot.
There's also related good news at play—and not just for enormous multinational companies. In moving Leno out of the 10 p.m. slot, NBC now needs to scramble to fill the time currently occupied by the chinny one. Enter new shows like Jerry Seinfeld's reality effort about marriage, a series based on the 1989 film Parenthood, and, naturally, a couple of Law & Order spinoffs. People: Ice-T is back in the land of employment! No matter how you feel about the quality of such programming, the fact is that all these new shows need writers, actors, producers, gaffers, and best boys (bonus points if anyone can tell me what a best boy does). So, yes, by and large what has transpired over at the peacock network has been little more than an exercise in ego launching, corporate greed and woeful mismanagement. But on the plus side: A bunch of creative people now have jobs.