January 7, 2010, 1:32 pm
NBC Denies Rumor of ‘Leno’ Cancellation
By BILL CARTER of the NYTimes.com
NBC executives denied a rumor that appeared on a Web site Thursday that the network had made a decision to cancel its “Jay Leno Show” — but at the same time the network acknowledged that low ratings for the show had become a serious problem for NBC’s affiliated stations.
The report, which appeared Thursday on a Web site called FTV, was followed by an interview with its author on KNX radio in Los Angeles, who cited network sources saying Mr. Leno’s show would be dropped, perhaps as soon as after NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics concludes next month.
But NBC executives then issued two statements, one saying that Mr. Leno had dominated the ratings as a late-night star for more than 15 years and was working with the affiliated stations to try to improve the ratings performance of his prime-time show, and then another statement that said definitively that the show had not been canceled.
NBC’s initial statement read: “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.”
Mr. Leno’s show, which has appeared each weeknight at 10 p.m. since last fall, has produced low but steady ratings over the last several months, not out of line with what NBC guaranteed advertisers. But the show has been blamed for some sharp ratings falloffs in the 11 p.m. local newscasts at NBC’s stations – and pressure has been mounting from the affiliates who depend on local news for the bulk of their revenue.
NBC’s affiliate board has a meeting scheduled with the network on Jan. 21. The period after the Olympics might be a logical time for some kind of schedule change, but NBC executives acknowledged late last year that it has few programs ready to be plugged in at 10 p.m.
One reason the rumors of a possible cancellation have grown is that NBC has put more pilots into production than in any recent year. So far NBC executives have not confirmed that one reason for adding more pilots was a possible need to find five new 10 p.m. dramas for next fall.