January 21, 2010

Conan out, Jay back in

After just over a week of wrangling posturing negotiating, NBC decided to pay Conan and his staff $45 Million and bring back Jay to the Tonight Show.

In TV’s version of the New Coke Debacle, this was probably the best outcome for the Tonight Show brand.

  1. The show stays in the traditional slot (keeping the heritage),
  2. They’ll get back lots of their former viewers (and attract different advertisers),
  3. Jay will be in a comfortable environment (which gives NBC a chance to do something interesting at 10:00)
  4. The Conan O’Brien Show (on whatever Network it will eventually appear) will be free to thrive in a non-mutated form, now that he doesn’t have NBC executives saying “Bring the old Conan Show to Burbank, tone it down a bit for the post-news former Jay lovers, and get us lots of viewers, all in less than 6 months”

The point today is that it’s impossible to morph existing brands into existing brands. The three brands in question were Tonight Show, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien. The fact NBC hedged their bets and was afraid to get rid of any of them was the biggest mistake. In a few years when it’s Jay’s real time to go, NBC will need to find a relative unknown, and give them at least a year to build “The New Tonight Show”… when the time is right.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. George, nice work on this one. To me, the biggest difference between New Coke and Conan is that New Coke predated the Internet. As a result, there was no Team CokeCoke, no controversy concerning whether New beats Old, and keeping Leno on the shelf at 10pm meant that Conan was an alternative rather than a replacement.

    Also, I presume that many heads rolled at Coke. I look forward to see who bites it should NBC decides who would like to spend more time with his/her family…

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