Suppose you are a chief executive (CEO) or run an ad sales team. One of your top performers is hitting his quotas, but he’s not up to date with the latest digital advertising streams.
Short term, he’s doing great. Long-term prognosis is terrible. What do you do?
Well, if you’re NBC, you replace him. For the second time in five years, Jay Leno is being replaced with a younger host. It didn’t pan out with Conan O’Brien in 2009 but they are more optimistic this time around with Jimmy Fallon, age 39. And there are definite reasons for that confidence.
The dilemma: Jay Leno has the largest late-night viewership at 3.83 million. He’s outperforming Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Fallon, even Jon Stewart in TV audience share. His ad revenue is nothing to complain about.
Chart via Hollywood Reporter.
On the other hand, Fallon’s audience is supposed to be younger, hipper, and cooler than Leno’s. Fallon was reaching out to a different demographic in the 12:30 a.m. slot, when most of Leno’s contemporaries were fast asleep. But in actuality the main part of Fallon’s audience wasn’t watching a one-hour show at 12:35 a.m., rather going online.
Fallon created a lot of snackable media – and it is his digital audience that really matters. Those viral videos, tweets, Facebook likes, those are the real consumers that NBC is after. Leno, for all his fan loyalty and competitive TV audience metrics, didn’t deliver digitally. Thanks Jay, it’s been a great run but I need a 90-second spot that can hit the 18-44 demographic.
The video of Tom Cruise and Jimmy Fallon playing Egg Roulette has a couple of million views. This segment was built for a digital audience – you didn’t need to sit through the interview to understand it, it has a great sight gag, and is totally viewable on a small-screen smartphone. Voila, a viral video.
In looking at the digital audience, don’t discount The Tonight Show‘s move back to New York. Some people have viewed it as an East Coast/West Coast thing as part of the supposed booking wars for talent. Yes, there is some of that. But The Tonight Show is coming back to 30 Rock, where Lorne Michaels is in charge. Michaels will now run The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and Seth Meyers’ new late show. With the Today show right downstairs, you can easily see the cross-fertilization. The building blocks were already there between Fallon and SNL, where the SNL guest host was almost always on Jimmy Fallon, promoting their SNL appearance. It will be ridiculously easy for Michaels to pitch talent a package of appearances across those shows, with a great video segment for the talent’s YouTube channel. Justin Timberlake was already a regular on Jimmy Fallon with “Timberlake Tuesdays” and their “History of Rap” went viral. A few months later, they took over the SNL yearend show with their brilliant co-hosting gig (watching Timberlake impersonate Fallon in front of Fallon was a personal highlight).
Would Leno do that? Would he have his own LateNight #Hashtag game as Fallon did, incorporating user-generated content into his actual show?
So why is NBC replacing Leno? It’s clearly not TV audience share or ad revenue. This is broadcast TV trying to keep pace in the digital age. Can an old-school TV network make it today’s data-driven ad market? Tune in and see.
Maybe Jimmy Fallon will make The Tonight Show a worldwide trending topic.
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