What changes are ahead for The Jay Leno Show? NBC says it's working "to find ways to improve the performance" of the program in response to affiliates' concerns.
The show — created to keep Leno at NBC after Conan O'Brien's long-planned promotion to Tonight ringmaster — premiered Sept. 14 to 17.7 million viewers and a 5.1 rating in the 18-to-49 demo. But Leno's ratings quickly declined. Wednesday's all-new episode brought in 5.45 million viewers and a 1.6 rating among 18-to-49-year-olds.
Nonetheless, NBC Universal in a statement called Leno "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," the statement continued. "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."
The show's low ratings have hit local NBC affiliates hard. Local 11 p.m. news broadcasts on NBC affiliates throughout the country have reported declining numbers since Leno took over at 10 p.m.
NBC also issued a statement regarding O'Brien's future at the network. "We have the best comedy team in the business. We remain committed to keeping Conan O'Brien on NBC. He is a valued part of our late-night line-up, as he has been for more than 16 years and is one of the most respected entertainers on television."
Meantime, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien has hardly been a success story. The former Late Night host's Tonight debut had 9.2 million viewers and a 3.8 rating among adults 18-to-49 in June. But in recent months, The Tonight Show's ratings have dropped. It averaged 2.5 million viewers and a 1.0 rating among 18-to-49-year-olds for the week of Dec. 21-25.
Last year, Leno's Tonight averaged 5.7 million viewers and a 1.5 rating during the week of Dec. 22-26.