Mo Ryan of the Chicago Tribune has the transcript of Leno’s appearance on Oprah that will air today. My first thought is “wow, I thought Conan and NBC had agreed to some sort of media blackout where they couldn’t talk ill of each other.” Apparently that only applies to Conan because Jay trashed Conan’s ratings more than once. According to Leno, the affiliates were not only unhappy with the ratings for his primetime show, they were unhappy with Conan’s ratings at 11:30.
By going back to “The Tonight Show,” did he ever think that he was “taking away Conan’s dream?”
Leno: “No. Because, again, this is an affiliate decision. Affiliates felt that the ratings were low. This was the first time in the 60-year history of ‘The Tonight Show’ that ‘The Tonight Show’ would have lost money. And that’s what it comes down to. It’s really just a matter of dollars and cents. If the numbers had been there, they wouldn’t have asked me. And they only asked me after Conan turned down moving [‘The Tonight Show’] back half an hour.”
I recommend reading the whole transcript. We’ll have to see how it plays out in video but reading through it, I don’t see it doing anything to rehabilitate his image. Though I’m not sure there’s much downside either.
Leno also claims he was surprised by how far Jimmy Kimmel went in his appearance, but wasn’t going to edit it out. He also seems under the impression that his 10pm show was competing against dramas that cost between $3 million and $6 million an episode to produce.