‘Tonight Show’ Accused of Blocking Guests From Appearing on Rival Networks

'Tonight Show' Accused of Blocking Guests From Appearing on Rival Networks

James White/NBC

Geography may be the biggest factor in who appears where, one executive tells TheWrap

One of NBC's rivals says the network is blocking “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” guests from appearing on competing network shows — a contention NBC denies.

An insider from a morning show on another network says NBC is taking advantage of Fallon's strong ratings to try to monopolize guests. The person told TheWrap that NBC does not allow a celebrity to do competitors’ shows for three months — even morning shows.

“We've been hearing … that they've been promising packages to the big stars,” the morning show insider told TheWrap. “[NBC is saying], ‘We'll give you ‘The Voice,’ ‘Today,’ or even spots on ‘Nightly [News].'”

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“It's like a full-court press,” the insider added, claiming that NBC is “dangling” E!, Bravo, Telemundo, and other NBCUniversal properties in front of potential guests.

There's nothing unusual about bookers trying to get guests exclusively, but NBC is “playing a bit more hardball,” the insider said.

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Another person, with knowledge of the late night landscape, said the contention of strong-arming was “probably a very exaggerated truth.” Both the morning and late-night sources noted that in January NBC named Kathy Kelly-Brown senior vice president of Global Talent Booking with an eye toward landing New York City guests.

“With all these shows there is a struggle for guests … and NBC did hire [Kelly-Brown] in New York City, who is facilitating booking between all of their entertainment shows throughout NBCUni, so that office probably has some leverage, but [it] sounds a little extreme,” the late-night person said.

“You couldn't pull that with a big name,” the person continued. “Maybe someone who is lesser-known and just starting out on an NBC show.”

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NBC denies any wrongdoing: ”While of course the network would like to get the best talent on its morning show and late night, by no means are we strong-arming anyone,” a network insider told TheWrap.

An executive at another network said the booking issues may be more about logistics than anything else. Because “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Today Show” are so close together, it's very easy for a guest to do several NBC shows. That wasn't the case when “The Tonight Show” was in Burbank.

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“Being in New York City has sort of messed up everyone's biorhythms,” the executive told TheWrap, adding ”These types of booking shenanigans have been going on since the dawn of time. The only difference right now is Fallon's hot.”

  • hupto

    This recalls a famous story regarding Carson. NBC was always giving him grief for booking guests who appeared on other networks’ shows. Then one day in 1971 he got a call from some suit asking why they hadn't gotten Carroll O'Connor, who was super-hot from “All in the Family.” So Johnny booked him–and then got hell from the first execs about it! It was insanity like this that eventually pushed him to form his own production company and take control of “Tonight” away from the bean counters.

    Bottom line: Nothing new here.

    • XYZ

      It's one thing to make some noise if a competitor's star is booked on their show. It's a whole other level of dirty to ban anyone from appearing on other shows and to make it a formalized policy. Whether or not it's “new,” it's sleazy and desperate.

    • Jim

      I always throught the fact was he got tired of it. And cut it down to 60 mins with days off.

      • hupto

        That, too. I didn't say it was the ONLY reason! :-)

  • room21

    It's fascinating how out of touch NBC continues to be. Fallon might be “hot” to them but the show isn't “hot” to those who matter – the audience. New and shiny is different from “hot.” NBC is hardly in the position to be making these kind of arrogant threats. CBS is better positioned to do that but they don't seem to. It's a sign of weakness if NBC needs to threaten. Dangling E, Telemundo, and Bravo as enticements? Those seem more like threats. NBC really doesn't seem to have a realistic view, just like it keeps cranking out the same tired bad single-cam “comedies” despite thorough and abject failure.

    Having Jim Parsons on SNL isn't NBC sharing the wealth. It's CBS sharing the wealth. Having the star of the most successful comedy on tv is beneficial to SNL, not the other way around.

    • Caley McGuire

      “Having Jim Parsons on SNL isn't NBC sharing the wealth. It's CBS sharing the wealth. Having the star of the most successful comedy on tv is beneficial to SNL, not the other way around.”

      Nonsense. It's mutually beneficial.

  • Nick Martin

    Leno was doing the same thing early on in his tenure and reportedly tried to continue to do it against Letterman. This is one of the real reasons for Letterman's feud with Leno and why Arsenio wanted to “kick his ass”.

  • Jim



    Hey Ken Kragen! Travis Tritt coming out with a new album or an anniversary album, remastered???? HUH????

    Warren Littlefield is cursing up a storm!

  • Norm Thompson

    here we go again – same old crap. Grow up you guys. Threats dont work in the long term, usually backfiring as the show, which is new, starts to fade (its not that great a show). Too much politics here. Shame on NBC.

  • SayWhat

    NBC will lose with Fallon and worse Seth, so now they think blocking guests will draw the guests by the hoards to the soon to be #3 rated late night show only? BRILLIANT!

  • Jimmy Reagan

    The Tonight Show was harassing guests back when Leno took over back in 1993. The 1994 HBO film “The Late Shift” dramatized it. Kathy Bates did a good job too.. As for Fallon, I can't stand him. Aside from being a mediocre SNL allium, a horrible actor (his movies suck), his only claim to fame is being a “good” friend of Justin Timerlake's.. I can't stand him..He's a stale corporate kiss-ass and not at all funny or entertaining… Even if it is true that the TS is “banning” guests, it comes down to the host and the show rests on his talent, not the talent he has on..Jimmy Kimmel had Mayor Rob Ford and Gonzo (Muppets) one night this week.. and Jimmy pulled it off, because Kimmel has something Fallon doesn't – a sense of humor and humility. The best part of Kimmel's show is his monologue. I've tried watching Fallon and his monologues are beyond boring….and those notes segments have got to go..

    • Nick Martin

      I pretty much agree but big guests do pull in viewers. One of the reason's Leno started beating Letterman was because since Leno was LA based, he had access to the big stars first and then they would usually be on Letterman after they had been on one of the morning shows and Regis/Kelly. So there wasn't as much incentive to watch as there was with when they were on Leno first.

  • Prof49

    While I think Fallon is a real entertainer, it's no longer “The Tonight Show.” The sound is dead (not properly mixed) and the set and studio just does not sparkle (whereas Leno's did). Added to this is the fact that it's in NYC, making it a real looser for me. NYC is not representative of America as much as New Yorkers want to believe it is. Frankly I couldn't care less about NYC and their snooty attitude. Now we have the choice of the far left loon Letterman or the far leftie Fallon (at least he did “go jump in a lake” with Rahm Emanuel–literally!)–not much of a choice, so I'll pass.

    • Paw

      “Frankly I couldn't care less about NYC and their snooty attitude”…

      Because LA is so down to earth?

      • Nick Martin

        Does it really matter what city it's taped in? Letterman used to use the city as a backdrop for comedy by going out in the streets but except for U2 playing on the roof, Fallon's show could be taped in Cleveland and nobody would know the difference.

    • Caley McGuire

      If it were produced in a city other than New York, it would then be a ‘tighter?’

    • Nick Martin

      How is Letterman a far left loon? Please explain and have examples.

  • Bill

    It's tough when a company not familiar with programming and talent takes over a company like NBC Universal. From a guest standpoint, the show should have remained in Los Angeles, moving the host (like Conan did). Sure saves money having 5 shows almost daily out of 30 Rock. BTW, those younger viewers Tonight is desperately courting will never stick…those demos don't care about late night tv. The audience is older for a reason so why blow off #1 to try to get demos that aren't interested. Time will prove this out once the hype settles. It'll prove to be yet another blown decision by the company more familiar with cable and acquisitions then talent and programming.

  • Deborah Swan

    Doesn't anyone else notice that this isn't The Tonight Show at all? It's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon moved up an hour to the Tonight Show slot. Same band, same side kick, same immature schtick, same city. Same bad show. It was better with the LA prospective. I can't imagine this will last.

  • Brian Weir

    I'm still trying to understand what the appeal is for being in New York City. It's overcrowded, filthy, and it's one of the heavily taxed and overregulated places in the nation. If you're looking for something that truly represents America, NYC will leave a bad, distorted taste in your mouth.