LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- NBC entertainment chief Jeff Gaspin didn't waste any time.
"Let me just get right to it, let's talk about 'The Jay Leno Show,'" he said at the start of the network's executive session at the TCA Winter Press Tour. "I can confirm what many of you have been reporting: starting February 12, 'The Jay Leno Show' will no longer air at 10 p.m. While it was performing at acceptable levels for the network, it did not meet our affiliates needs and we realized we had to make a change."
"My goal right now is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy as part of our late-night lineup," he continued. "I spoke to all of them and proposed 'The Jay Leno Show' move to 11:35, 'The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien' move to 12:05, and 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' then start at 1:05. As much as I'd like to tell you we have a done deal, we know that's not true. The talks are still ongoing."
So what will fill the 10:00/9:00c hour then going forward? "We're working on that now... but I can promise you I will wait until the very last second, working with the team, making changes to the schedule until I'm told by the marketing department that listings are due and ads have to go to print."
As for specifics, Gaspin said, "My guess is that at least two more hours of scripted [land] somewhere on the schedule, probably another reality hour and then probably some expanded "Dateline" or repeats somewhere else on the schedule... that's my guess but I haven't worked out all the details yet.
Viewers however shouldn't expect to see a tidal wave of scripted additions until the fall at the earliest. "We have the early pilot ['Rex Is Not Your Lawyer'] and there's a couple of other possibilities but I'm not quite sure they're going to make it to the schedule [until the fall].
So why pull the trigger now? Wasn't "Jay" supposed to be a 52-week experiment? "A lot of the smaller affiliates started to get their November book numbers... and they started, the drumbeats started to get louder and louder," Gaspin said. "And towards the middle of December they made it very clear that they were going to start being more vocal about their displeasure, and then they started to talk about the possibility of pre-emption. And it was then that I realized that this was just not going to go well if we kept things in place. And since they are our partners, and even though it was doing okay for us - it truly was - I just made the tough call."
As for the show's failure, Gaspin pointed to the fact that "people just have a lot of choices at 10 o'clock and we thought a joinable program could be everybody's second choice. What really happened was there was just so many other choices that people thought were better. I heard that over and over again anecdotally, 'There's so many good dramas on at 10 o'clock on the networks and cable, I go watch my DVR at 10 o'clock.' So there was just so much intense competition at 10 o'clock that if something that was easy to watch and easily joinable was actually not what people's first or second choice is at 10 o'clock."
Gaspin also says the numbers don't lie - "CBS went down a tenth of a rating point year-to-year [at 10 o'clock] and ABC went down a tenth of a rating point year-to-year," all despite NBC's absence of scripted dramas. "Tell me there's not a problem at 10 o'clock?"
And what of "Last Call with Carson Daly?" "Carson is going to be part of NBC regardless of what happens. We just had an incredibly successful New Year's Eve show where he did a 3.2 demo, it's the highest rated we've had yet. We're fans of Carson and Carson will be part of the NBC family regardless of what happens." Gaspin however noted a 2:05 a.m. start doesn't appear to be an option: "that is affiliate time right now, overnight time. There could be some rejiggering, I just don't know and I don't want to say until I know what's happening everywhere else."