Here’s one headline Jay Leno won’t want to read. Ever since the fall TV season began in earnest Sept. 21, the former king of late night has been getting his keister kicked in primetime. He’s finished in last place every single night, with his numbers falling steadily and hitting a new low of 4.5 million viewers on Monday. Over those first two weeks, he represents a 25% dropoff from NBC’s 10pm offerings last year.
But NBC isn’t giving up yet. Leno will air new content 46 weeks a year, and they’re betting his numbers improve once the dramas and comedies go into reruns. "If not, it's particularly troublesome," says one ad firm representative. A network executive maintains the weak rating aren't Leno's fault. "The issue is not Jay. It's our lead-in to Jay." He is "still the right strategy if our 8-to-10 (lineup) is stronger."