Rumors from reliable sources within NBC seem to indicate that both THE JAY LENO SHOW as well as THE TONIGHT SHOW with Conan O'Brien will likely face a big February shakeup due to poor ratings. Rather than canceling both shows, NBC will apparently move Jay Leno's show to it's previous 11:35 time slot, but cut the show down to just 30 minutes. Conan's program will air at 12:05 in it's entirety. But so far, the fate of Jimmy Fallon's show as well as Carson Daly is not known. NBC also airs a late night poker program as well. NBC is making these moves to stem huge ratings losses to THE LATE SHOW with David Letterman. The old TONIGHT SHOW hosted by Jay Leno used to consistently beat Letterman in ratings most nights. However, Conan O'Brien has experienced at least a 52% audience drop since taking over the show. And even worse, Jay Leno's terrible 10:00 ratings have destroyed that time slot for the network and hurt other programs as well.
At one time, Jay Leno had expressed interest in retirement so that he could spend more time with his cars as well as playing resort clubs. And after NBC had forced Leno's hand by forcing him to retire to be replaced by Leno, Leno changed his mind about not doing a show. So NBC decided to give Leno a prime time show to keep him at the network as well as to save costs as the network slipped into financial difficulty due to lackluster ratings. But the Leno experiment sadly failed for NBC, and only worsened that network's decline.
Both Leno and Conan hold trump cards over NBC despite their terrible ratings. Conan has a contract clause where NBC would have to pay him a $50 million dollar settlement bonus if they cancel him and break their contract with him. Leno has a contract that could be enforced by high power attorney, Ken Ziffren. Ziffren is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and not someone that NBC would want to tangle with. He could cost the "Peacock Network" for some major cash if NBC would ax Leno's contract. The fact of the matter is that NBC is stuck with both Leno and Letterman, but needs to put them where they do the least ratings damage to the network. Probably neither Leno or Conan woke up very happy this morning. The new moves by NBC aren't much of a sign of confidence in either guy right now. If anything, they say that they're sorry to have both around right now. That's hardly a reassuring note by any means.
Right now, NBC could explain that moving Leno to 11:35 due to the Winter Olympics coverage might help to shore up February ratings for NBC considerably during this critical sweeps month. However, the ultimate fate of Leno and Conan could be put off for another day if NBC really wants to break both contracts. But for now, both may be out of the frying pan, but not the fire.