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January 12, 2010

PR Buzz – Conan Defeats NBC

Tags: conan o'brian, conan o'brien, jay leno, jimmy fallon, leno, nbc, tonight show, TV

Conan O’Brien has won the current PR battle over NBC as it regards to hosting “The Tonight Show.”

Jay Leno, the former host who NBC retained to host a nightly comedy program (sounds kinda like “The Tonight Show,” right?), had his new 10pm show cancelled.  And, in the best cancellation in the history of TV, NBC wanted to give him his old time slot back…or at least part of it, pushing O’Brien to 12:05am.  Translation, “The Tonight Show,” would technically be “The Tomorrow Show.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Conan basically said he would not agree to move the show to 12:05am, citing the “destruction” of the show, while also acknowledging how unfair it would be to Jimmy Fallon, the new host of “Late Night,” O’Brien’s old show.

The absolute zinger of the statement was this:

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. – Conan O’Brien

While Leno and NBC have remained hush on their thoughts, O’Brien was proactive.  He cited valid reasons for not wanting to be a part of this mess AND planted the seed for any other network to welcome him with open arms.

Sounds like a PR win to me.

What do you think?  Is there any way NBC can recover from this in the short term?

Suggested Reading: My good friend TJ Dietderich breaks down why Conan Rules Your World over the at PR Breakfast Club!

  • Jeff H
    I know this is a day or two old, but I have to say that I agree with you on being more proactive. I find it interesting that most here are counting this as the right move, as there's been reports on Hollywood insider type sites that O'Brien's people told him not to do this because it would hurt his negotiating leverage. I don't agree with that, its just what I've heard suggested elsewhere.

    I guess the question would be can you be so proactive that you limit your ways out?
  • Gina
    I think NBC has a very short window within which their response stands a chance of being well-received by the general public. Here's my idea: knock out one of the failing NBC prime time shows, give Jay a portion of that time with a format more similar to his last show. Give Conan some extra time to gain viewers and the freedom to have a format similar to his last endeavor. Let's face it -- if it's not broke, don't fix it! Now the real problem: how to salvage any kind of appearance that NBC is being active and not reactive. I say do a huge PR campaign that solicits pilot scripts for new programming from the public. The scripts would be for possible use in the currently faltering prime time slots.
  • Conan proves again that the best action - whether you are in the right or not - is to be proactive. I think that Leno and NBC's lack of reaction speaks volume (at least in terms of speculation, which can be more damaging than truth). No matter what happens, Conan is King {of PR at least} in my eyes!
  • mikeschaffer
    Love this! Being proactive lets YOU control the story. Seriously...this is not about NBC pushing Conan to the side. This is Conan saying that he doesn't want to be a part of this and will go where he is wanted. Also, his comments last night in the monologue were scathing, but hilarious.
  • Sounds like NBC is getting a good deal in the short term...lots of press and people tuning in to see what happens next.
  • mikeschaffer
    I LOVE this, Deb. NBC really is getting a moment in the sun. The ball is squarely in their court. Conan made his move, now it's NBC's turn, with more people watching then any point in the past few years.
  • Melissa_H
    Hi Mike!

    I've never been a fan of Jay Leno, and certainly won't start now. Conan has helped me nod off to sleep more time than I can count, and is far more funny, in my opinion. I hope Conan gets what he wants - though it sounds like NBC may have insulted him once too far?
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for reading and commenting, Melissa! It looks to me like Conan was tired of being #2 to Leno and wanted to go where he was wanted as a #1. Can't blame him for that. This drama is only going to get worse. On the good side, it made for some great TV last night!
  • mdeboard
    Hey Mike. Could not agree more. Conan hammered out a great release here that expressed his disappointment with the situation while not demeaning anyone. Very classy. (All that being said I wasn't too hot on his hosting)
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for chiming in, Matt! I enjoyed Conan at 12:35, but agree with you that 11:35 was a struggle for him on NBC. Hopefully he can move to a network that attracts a more like-minded, younger-skewing audience (FOX?).
  • Sheema Siddiqi
    I think Conan definitely won the PR war- his statement was funny, sentimental, and gracious. It makes Leno/NBC look even worse! I doubt there'll be a quick fix for NBC short term, they've effectively antagonized a bunch of their viewers with their actions, and it will take time for that to be forgotten! Great post as usual!
  • mikeschaffer
    Yep, NBC is in for the loooooooooong haul. I am curious to see what happens when Leno gets "The Tonight Show" back. Will people still watch? I feel bad for Jimmy Fallon, who's show has gotten REALLY good lately!
  • MattLaCasse
    Won't anyone PLEASE think of Carson Daly?!!

    Huge win for Conan. He was already painted as the good guy by the media when the story broke last week. With this statement he's given NBC a very easy decision: send Leno out to pasture or essentially fire him (Conan) and send him to another network to kick their collective butt.

    Either way...Conan comes out smelling like roses and NBC looks like the idiotic idiots that they are.
  • mikeschaffer
    Oh, Carson...I tried watching his show recently. It feels like a hipster Blair Witch Project...
  • Mel
    I think Conan's statement put him squarely in the corner of handling this whole messy situation like an adult. Leno and NBC gambled on a risky program choice...they lost. You can't look at a losing hand you dealt yourself and call re-deal. Leno should be sent home to play with his cars and book some stand up dates.
  • mikeschaffer
    See the head of that nail? You just hit it...squarely.
  • I really like how Mel's phrasing of: "Conan's statement put him squarely in the corner of handling this whole messy situation like an adult. "

    Couldn't agree more. And another thing that stood out to me was the ability of Conan to be so proactive. Isn't that what we're always preaching to clients and companies? It's always better to act than react? Conan's done just that by issuing this statement. He's setting up the stage to negotiate and discuss, rather than simply reacting sourly to a decision that becomes set in stone by NBC.

    great post, Mike. and a PR win from my view.
  • mikeschaffer
    The theme being proactive is all over the place today. Conan got in front of the story and seriously gained Q rating points here. He went from being the quirky late night guy that was doing OK on "The Tonight Show" to the hottest free agent in entertainment!
  • Sasha H. Muradali
    Sounds like a PR win to me too! I was wondering about the Jimmy Fallon thing the most when I first heard about this fiasco because it's totally unfair to him as well. Jay Leno's ego to have his old show back would basically be killing off his replacement, Conan, and then Conan's replacement, Jimmy, thus messing everything up.

    Glad you pointed the situation out in this particular way!

    Well written Mike and thanks for sharing.
  • mikeschaffer
    I don't know who to assign blame to here. Did Leno do anything all that bad? I don't know. I'm sure it's quite ugly up in 30 Rock right now...
  • Sasha H. Muradali
    lol -- I think it's time for Leno to retire. 17-years is a long time for a
    show like that and let's face it, he's no Johnny Carson or Ed Sullivan.
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