With the Tonight Show's June transition from Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien on the front burner, NBC is already anticipating a jump in younger viewers. The June handover "is as important an event as is going to happen to this company in 2009," an NBC VP tells Advertising Age. Even with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert dominating late-night buzz, NBC's signature property made $255.9 million in ad dollars last year.
Although NBC is publicly confident that O'Brien's edgier comedy will work as well at 11:35 as it does an hour later, "I think some of the older crowd will consolidate and go to Letterman," one advertiser predicts. But "it's still The Tonight Show, and it still has a desk and a chair and a couch and a performance area and the band," said the VP. "Those things have been familiar to viewers since 1954."