The NBC Tonight Show was taken over by Conan O'Brien with a 5 year lead in and Jay Leno was to start a new 10 pm "Jay Leno" show. And then the viewership numbers in the new format started to tumble...
Late night with the "Tonight Show: and the legendary Johnny Carson had sort of established a Classic Coke for the late night comedy market, on television. Despite the very extensive syndicated data available on this kind of product it is sort of amazing why NBC executives could not really understand customer (viewer) behavior - at all. Apparently, the Jay Leno lead in to the affiliate local news did not work.Local news watchers had been used to waiting for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno but apparently were not waiting for the Tonight Show with Conan as they had enough comedy with the Jay Leno Show at 10 pm. They would switch off the evening news and NBC affiliates were up in arms against the new format of Jay Leno as the lead in to the evening news.
More intriguing is the hind sight comment that Conan's material is more "late night" and really not "main stream" enough for the Tonight Show.
I cannot but compare with the New Coke which failed to understand the meaning of Coke to the American ie a way of life . It now turns out that for the Tonight show time is important and Conan is likely to leave NBC being now shifted to the 12.05 slot after news and a 30 minute Jay Leno segment.
The logic of putting on Jay Leno at 10 pm was more to do with lower costs. Production costs as the single important determinant for marketing decisions reeks of disrespect for the customer. And when the customer feels disrespected s/he votes with her feet or remote as in this case.
The NBC late night fiasco will continue to unfold and provide learning opportunities to the marketing,media and advertising communities for years to come.