Denied: NBC Says Leno Not Canceled

Random website stirs the part with report that the decision is done. Nobody will be shocked it it’s ulitmately true

UPDATE 2:53 PM PDT

Media Decoder, Bill Carter’s television and media blog for the New York Times, is now reporting that NBC executives have held discussions with Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien Thursday about the future of the network’s late-night lineup. Those executives did not deny that the network is considering moves that could include returning Mr. Leno to his old job as host of “The Tonight Show.”

More to come …

UPDATE 1:13 PM PDT

TMZ.com reports that after its Olympics hiatus on Feb. 1, "The Jay Leno Show" will move back to the 11:30 p.m. time slot. Citing sources it does not name, the report says it’s not clear whether Jay’s show, would be a half-hour lead-in to Conan O'Brien, or a full hour — presumably sending O’Brien to the curb.

If any such a decision has really been made, it would be a complete surprise to the camp of O’Brien, who currently occupies the 11:30 slot, according to a person close to the situation who spoke to TheWrap.

UPDATE 11:44 PM PDT

NBC executives are now denying the report that "The Jay Leno Show" has been canceled,  after initially saying only that the network was working with affiliates to make sure the show improved.

 Today’s flurry of speculation is no doubt tied to the fact that (a) affiliates are unhappy and will make that fact known at their affiliate meeting next week and (b) NBC is weighing its options on what to do next with Leno.

While NBC entertainment chief Angela Bromstad’s recent remarks to BusinessWeek noting plans for 18 pilots would indicate the development boost is linked to Leno, in fact, NBC has been making it clear to agents since last September — before Leno debuted — that it planned to beef up development mightily. The reason: Um, it’s in fourth place, and the era of managing for margin is over.

In other words, don’t read too much into the idea that NBC is developing so much new content. Though, obviously, if/when Leno goes away (or is cut back), the network will need replacement programming.

Meanwhile, A senior executive at NBC told TheWrap this week that the network was committed to Leno as it had originally stated, for two years. The executive acknowledged that affiliates were upset about the drop in viewership since Leno had launched, but said that the comedian had committed to travel and perform in a series of markets to boost viewership and assuage affiliate anxiety.

The executive also said that NBC was mainly focused at rebuilding the 8-10 pm schedule, and improving those ratings. The Leno experiment would work its way through over time. Regardless of Leno’s performance, the executive said, the network had an obligation to improve its ranking in scripted prpogramming.

Finally, the senior executive said, NBC was focused on cultivating a culture around a three-pillar strategy — programming shows that focus on human stories, unique stories and positive stories. That strategy was ultimately what led to a decision to yank the critically supported "Southland," a dark police drama that did not fit into the upbeat, personal tone of programming under the new regime led by Jeff Gaspin. 

UPDATE 11 PM PDT

NBC has issued a non-denial denial of the FTVLive report — and it indicates that, yes, the source of today’s rumor is from the affiliate body. The statement:

Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today. As we have said all along, Jay’s show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance.”

Our translation (meant with a minimum of snark!): Nothing’s official yet, but the affiliates ain’t happy. We’re mulling options beyond cancellation, but hey, anything could happen. We (NBC) aren’t going to say Leno isn’t leaving primetime because, duh, have you seen the numbers? It would be dumb of us to rule it out completely. Stay tuned.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

It’s over for Jay Leno — if you believe reports on the websites of CBS News and Fox Business

Both sites have picked up on a report from a website called FTVLive.com — we’ve never heard of it — claiming NBC has made the decision to "pull the plug" on Leno’s show. According to Fox’s report, the site claims NBC brass have deemed the show "a failure," but haven’t yet decided when the show will end or what will replace it.

Those last two details call into question the veracity of the FTVLive report, since it seems odd that NBC would dump Leno without an end date in mind.

And yet: An NBC decision to change course at 10 p.m. would be of no surprise to anyone in TV land. Indeed, multiple reports in recent weeks have speculated that Leno’s demise in primetime had become a matter of when, not if, in the wake of Comcast’s acquisition of the network. FTVLive appears to be highly sourced in the local stations community, whence the bulk of any dump-Jay pressure would be originating. 

It’s possible NBC might have had conversations with key affiliates discussing scenarios in which Leno in primetime would be dumped. 

What’s more, NBC didn’t immediately issue a denial of the report. A statement from the network is expected shortly, however.

TVMoJoe couldn’t immediately access the full FTVLive report, since it appears to be behind a paywall. Here’s some info on Scott Jones, the man who runs the site when, according to his bio, he’s not playing golf.