Why NBC is rolling the dice with Jimmy Fallon
Given the premium advertisers place on younger viewers, it's a risk the network has to take.
Finally, something has gone right for NBC.
The Comcast (CMCSA)-owned network has finally reached late-night nirvana. As The New York Times' Bill Carter predicted on March 21, Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno as the host of the long-running "Tonight" show in 2014. It is the exact scenario that NBC "categorically denied" was in the works when it was suggested by the Hollywood Reporter in early March.
If you read Carter's story posted online Wednesday, it's as if the last few weeks never happened. Leno is quoted saying he wasn't shoved aside, unlike the 2010 coup, and that "the main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process." Fallon added, “I have nothing but respect for Jay. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have a show to be taking over."
Setting aside all of the Hollywood back-slapping, this is a risky move. For Fallon to succeed, he will need to bring his existing audience to the "Tonight" show without alienating Leno's millions of fans. At the same time, he'll be expected to draw viewers away from ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, not to mention Viacom's (VIAB) Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and a host of other cable offerings.
Fallon's success is far from certain, but considering the premium advertisers place on younger viewers -- who increasingly tune out television altogether -- it's a risk that Philadelphia-based Comcast must take.
When Leno and David Letterman first became stars in the 1980s, late night television was at the center of the cultural zeitgeist. It was by definition young and hip. The problem is that many of those young viewers from the 1980s are the same ones watching the shows today, which makes them 20 to 30 years older and far less desirable to advertisers.
The median age for viewers of both "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and CBS' (CBS) "The Late Show with David Letterman" is in the mid-50s. Strangely enough, the younger hosts of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" also attract viewers that top 50 years old on average.
Meanwhile, on Time Warner's (TWX) TBS, Conan O'Brien's viewers are around 35 years old on average, which explains why his contract was renewed. The audiences for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Chelsea Handler average in the mid-30s as well. Kimmel, for his part, has seen his viewership skew younger since Disney's (DIS) ABC began running his show opposite Leno and Letterman earlier this year. That's one reason Leno is being replaced.
Speaking of Letterman, it's only a matter of time before he starts to feel the same forces that pushed Leno to depart.
--Jonathan Berr owns a small stake in CBS. Follow him on Twitter at @jdberr.
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"those young viewers from the 1980's are the same ones watching the shows today, which makes them 20 to 30 years older"
See NBC, this is your problem. The Tonight Show is the time slot leader due to the larger available demographic watching by choice. I like Jimmy Fallon where he is. I highly dought myself and millions of others who regularly watch will return if you give Jay the shaft AGAIN.
Current choices pogramming excutives presently have displayed have allowed you to loose your edge in viewers, #5. We read about it regularly here. One example is with the sh!t pulled on Ms Ann Curry. You should kick Lauer to the curb instead, bring back your viewership in the mornings. Whitney, The Voice, The Tonight Show and SVU are the only night programming worth a tinkers damn right now. You silly basttaards will never learn. Who is the biggest demographic right now, age group? We are your target market.
Letterman makes me want to open a vein and Fallon is great if you have a mental age of 16.
And the Roots SUCK!!!
The left eat their own all the time..one step out of line and Jay became dinner.
The big difference between Letterman and the others? Dave owns his own show. If he decides to bow out, he has the option to pick his own successor. CBS has the option to cancel his show either way, but they would then have to bear the costs of producing their own show as a replacement. That's why they've stuck with him all these years, despite his show's ratings almost always running behind Leno's.
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