Fallon with Mariah Carey: ready for his Tonight Show coronation?

On this week’s scintillating podcast, CHML’s Scott Thompson wants my take on rumours that NBC are dying to shove Jay Leno aside so Jimmy Fallon can take over the Tonight Show.
It does seem as though Leno’s days on Tonight are numbered. He still wins in total viewers most nights, but ABC’s move putting Jimmy Kimmel head-to-head at 11:35 and Kimmel’s subsequent ratings growth among the 18-49-year-old demographic finally appears to spell curtains for Leno and his traditional late night rival, CBS’s David Letterman.

Leno may not be able to weasel  out of this corner

Plus those guys are old. Letterman is now 66, the same age as Johnny Carson when he left The Tonight Show. I love Letterman, grew up with him, still dial him in first, but his show long ago stopped innovating and rarely strays from the same old. You once watched Letterman to see his reinvent late night. Now he clings to it.
There’s a feeling that Leno and Letterman are holding on just to stay on TV one day longer than the other.
Leno’s show is even more predictable. There’s more danger in the air over on Kimmel, and that’s what you need in late night.
NBC execs love Fallon and think he is ready now. Leno will be told even the Pope knew when to quit. The 62-year-old comedian’s contract runs through the summer of 2014. If Kimmel starts beating him regularly in 18-49, things will happen sooner.
There’s no guarantee Fallon will automatically rule late night. Conan O’Brien was supposed to be NBC’s answer just four years ago, don’t forget. Audience levels dropped, Leno plotted and NBC panicked. But Fallon will be groomed and if his interview skills pick up, should make a revamped Tonight Show work. He’s already an Internet player, with his viral videos getting views in the multi-millions.
CBS has a bigger problem: who will succeed Letterman? Craig Ferguson has a “Prince of Wales” clause–meaning CBS has to pay him big bucks if they don’t offer his the 11:35 slot. There is doubt in the industry that Ferguson is CBS’s first choice as he is seen more as a 12:35 guy–too out there, too singular, too Scottish or whatever. All those puppets and talking skeletons work after midnight but won’t wash at the earlier hour. Plus he’s 50-plus, and CBS will want a younger host to compete with Fallon and Kimmel.
Jon Stewart was thought to be the guy CBS would turn to to replace Letterman but few think he’ll leave his cosy pulpit at The Daily Show. The stakes are lower, he is still the guy for younger viewers and Comedy Central will do anything to keep him (including allowing him a long hiatus this summer to shoot a movie). Plus he has a young family, is crazy about his kids and just doesn’t need the CBS headache of following the legend that is Letterman.

Some Letterman guests are even older than he is

Howard Stern’s name is being bandied about as a possible successor to either Fallon at 12:35 on NBC or even for Letterman at CBS. Stern is extremely loyal to Dave, guesting often and usually boosting the demo rating when he does make an appearance. But at 59, he’s not going to take the pay cut just to prove himself all over again.
So who will follow Letterman? Bill Carter at the New York Times, who’s written a few books on the late night scene, keeps telling me to keep an eye on Stephen Colbert, 48. He does have that Nation.
Me and Scott also talk about the second attempt to make the Bell-Astral deal pass the sniff test. Even though the Competition Bureau has given the new arrangement a qualified thumbs up, I have to agree with this detailed take over at Mediamorphis. It does look as though the fear of too much media concentration is still real, although instead of one big monopoly in the hands of Bell, the plan to off load specialty channels and radio stations to Corus–where Shaw has a large stake–creates a “duopoly” for Bell and Shaw. The CRTC is sure to hear this argument from those who will line up against the plan. If you’ve ever wanted to know what the heck a Herfindal-Hirschman Index is, read on here.
And if you want just the regular old Brioux-Thompson Index,  listen in here.

1 Comment

  1. For the record, Jay consistently beats Kimmel in 18-49 too. In fact, Kimmel finished February sweeps third in 18-49 behind both Leno and Letterman. He’s really not doing that well. Jay will be replaced, but it has nothing to do with Kimmel.

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