Conan O’Brien is refusing to move his new Tonight Show to 12:05. For those who haven’t been following, The Tonight Show is an NBC tradition dating from the 1950’s, and was always shown at 11:30 pm (10:30 Central Time). Conan took over as host in 2009, and has struggled to get viewer numbers as high as his predecessor, Jay Leno.
NBC thought they could have it both ways, and gave Leno a new nightly show at 10pm. It was essentially a watered-down version of what he was doing at 11:30. Leno also struggled to keep his initially high viewer numbers. So NBC in their infinite wisdom are trying to force Conan’s show to 12:00, and give Leno a mini-show from 11:30 to 12:00.
This reminds me of a mobile phone company I used to know. Rather than shelving older products to make way for newer ones, they tended to keep the old ones in production and in sales channels for up to 7 years – 2 to 3 generations of similar products would be available “new” to consumers. Total sales were more important than a clear, non-overlapping, optimal offering for consumers.
Conan’s is the new Tonight Show. Leno’s older viewers are not interested in Conan’s show because they conservatively stick with what they know, and (bonus!) they get to go to bed earlier.
1. NBC need to say bye-bye to the old Leno product, and bring him back 3 times a year for holiday specials in an Ed Sullivan style. Kind of like a mobile phone limited edition.
2. NBC need to make Conan’s Tonight Show ultra-interactive and fun – broadcast it live (it’s taped a few hours before currently – live would scare censors but would keep a buzz of anything-can-happen)
3. They need to include ways of Internet audience participation / voting / playing. Like a feature upgrade for a younger audience with a shorter attention span.