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

James White/NBC

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.”