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3 Lessons from the Tonight Show Debacle

by Minority Fortune

It was said that the Native Americans thought about how a decision would affect the next seven generations before they decided to act upon it. It’s rarely practiced in our modern society, but the NBC Tonight Show debacle proves that it could be very useful to do so. Making half-thought out situations leaves for a mess like theirs.

If you’re not aware, Conan O’Brian was moved to the primetime Tonight Show that has always been slated for 11:35 PM once Jay Leno was set to retire. Well, Jay had a change of heart, which led to NBC accommodating him with a 10 PM show. The decision didn’t sit well with other primetime news channels, stating that the ratings for their news programs were dropping. So, now NBC must come up with a better solution to fix the mess.

NBC proposed that Jay Leno could take over the 11:35 PM slot with a half-hour show. Then the Tonight Show featuring Conan would be placed at 12:05 AM for the first time ever. However, this solution doesn’t sit well with Conan, and he’s publicly released a statement:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.



Nothing leaves a tarnished impression like lack of foresight and poor planning by a billion dollar network. Furthermore, it seems like NBC never really sat down and looked at all the repercussions of their unprecedented actions. While they’ve been attracting lots of attention, it isn’t of the good kind. Furthermore, they left their network stars, Conan and Jay, in the dark on their decisions, and that was also a bad move.

3 Things to Learn from NBC’s Debacle:

More Planning: Before you make a decision, you should do so after using a variety of factors. Think about its affect long-term.
Discussion: It seems as if NBC hadn’t sat Conan & Jay down for their opinions. Now they may be in danger of losing one or both of their Tonight Show stars.
Prevention Tactics: It’s clear NBC never asked themselves, “what if the worst thing happens”? They never planned for the worst, and now the worst has happened. However, they don’t even hold any solutions. Many small businesses opt to plan for the worst. It’s pathetic that such a huge network failed to do so.

While this situation will burn NBC in the short-term. It will hopefully teach them some crucial lessons that they should have understood long ago. Luckily, we all can attain universal lessons that will aid us in our wealth journeys and businesses from this situation.

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