Chin Up at NBC, Part III: A Leno/NBC Public Relations Move?
This morning, as everyone was watching Hulu and YouTube footage of Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman deliver withering jabs at Jay Leno and NBC, a new meme took hold thanks to an anonymous “TV insider” speaking with the celebrity blog PopEater:
Now that Conan has made it clear he is leaving the troubled network, Jay is considering doing the same. They have put Jay in a terrible position. It looks like he is the reason that Conan is now without a job. Jay is a great guy and it’s not fair that due to NBC’s stupidity he looks like the bad guy. Plus, what happens when Jay does return to the 11:35 slot if his audience doesn’t immediately follow? How can he possibly trust the same network that canceled Conan after only seven months?”
That sounds awfully nice, doesn’t it?
Now, please consider the following. Executives at NBC, having chosen to back Leno against O’Brien, who has garnered most of the positive press, now see that this late-night meltdown could result in permanently tarnishing the good-guy reputation of their horse in the race.
If you are a suit at NBC, you are now thoroughly, toxically unpopular with a wide swath of the viewing public, but being an unpopular executive at a major television network will not result in a massive ratings crater. However, if it drags down the star who has been backed with the full faith and credit of the network, that means a loss of real, concrete dollars. If Leno is painted by the vast majority of media and viewers as the moustache-twirling villain who tied O’Brien to the tracks, he might be permanently tarnished. So far, that seems to be the likely outcome.
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