Broadcasting & Cable's editor Ben Grossman has a great and lengthy interview with Jay Leno up where Leno responds to negative press, ratings, and the relationship with affiliates.
Ben tried, tried, and tried again to get Leno to say something "Please, please, please move me back to 11:30pm, NBC!" but Leno's media training was way too good to fall prey to it. But he does clearly say he would've preferred to remain at 11:30 to begin with, though Leno says he isn't getting any satisfaction that Conan's numbers at 11:30 are trailing what his used to be.
Jay also talks about how he maintains relationships with the affiliates (something he did when he was on "Tonight Show" as well) and that unless they "are the greatest actors in the world" are, the ones he has spoken to are in it for the long haul.
I can't use all the good parts without posting almost the entire interview, but it is definitely recommended reading.
Are you surprised by the negative press coverage?
No, not surprised at all. You don't take it personally because there's really no fun in an upbeat story. The fun is, they did this and let's watch it fall. I enjoy being the underdog….Right now we've reached a level [and] we're not going below that. The numbers seem to tell us people [who] are watching the show are staying the whole hour; that's a good sign. I'm told if we can keep a 1.5 [rating], they make $300 million a year; this is what they say. So we're a little above the 1.5, we're doing OK.
This is our toughest period; we are the complete flip side of regular TV. Sweeps we'll do the worst, non-sweeps we'll do the best. When people realize that reruns are on for an extended period of time, we'll see how we do and how we pick up.
But last week you lost to reruns, and that was a story.
That's OK, that's fine. People stand there with their finger on the button; I get it. I do it in the monologue every night; something happens and I do a joke. Is it fair? No. But I need the joke. Is it fair? No. But it makes a good story.
But no one is writing about your politics. So is it more your show or the decision to move it to 10?
I think it's probably the decision. To me, there is more opportunity for dramas on television now than ever. USA cable shows like Burn Notice normally would have gone on the network. Some of these other channels do significantly better, so why isn't Burn Notice on NBC if it's a hit? I don't know; there is enough work out there, so people shouldn't necessarily be mad at me for taking the 10 o'clock spot.
Have you heard any talk anywhere from NBC that they are thinking about backtracking on this decision?
No, you'll never hear that. They'll never tell you that. What, are you kidding? It's NBC.