Jay Leno is off the Tonight Show as of last night. NBC wants to hand off the iconic gig to someone of the younger generation, namely, Jimmy Fallon. Never mind that Leno is going out at #1 in his time slot. Never mind that Leno is #1 with the younger generation (the 18-49 demographic) that NBC is trying to attract with Fallon.
But ratings are not everything in the television industry. Nor, despite economic theory, are profits everything in the corporate world. Those who run the entertainment industry and America’s other businesses want the approval of their peers, feel cultural pressure, and yearn to be cool. Those things can be more motivating than money and success.
From Lisa de Moraes, Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Exit: Carefully Orchestrated Do-Over – Deadline.com:
On Thursday night, Jay Leno once again will hand over The Tonight Show to NBC’s younger-better idea – this time it’s his lead-out, Jimmy Fallon.
Most of the coverage has been about Leno taking with him a commanding ratings lead in late-night, not only among total viewers but also in the 18-49 age bracket advertisers covet. And in the days leading up to his exit, The Reporters Who Cover Television dusted off think pieces about Leno leaving the show in the wake of a demographic shift affecting millions of baby boomers who are being pushed aside to make way for a younger generation with different sensibilities. In many ways, Leno’s handoff to Fallon does mirror the first time the press wrote those think pieces, when NBC replaced Leno withJay Leno NBC his lead-out, Conan O’Brien in 2009 – a plan that famously flamed out over seven months.