Zucker is reported to be hot on the trail of the soon to be ex- Tonight Show show host to lure him to CNN after he finally quit the Tonight Show.
(L-R) Jay Leno, Jeff Zucker and Conan OBrien/ Getty
Jeff Zucker is reportedly a man with mission these days. That mission is to convince top TV host Jay Leno to let bygones be bygones, and forget the discomfort caused by on the most public “faux pas” ever carried out in the history of live television.
It was Zucker who was in charge at NBC in 2009 when the notorious schedule reshuffling of the station’s late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien ended in disaster, after Leno was moved to a later time slot, under the heading of the Jay Leno Show and O’Brien was given Leno’s prime time slot as host of the Tonight Show.
It soon became evident that Zucker’s bold move was not going to work out, with neither Leno or O’Brien achieving the audience level that Leno had consistently reached during his 17 year uninterrupted stint as host of the Tonight Show, starting from 1992.
Zucker and his staff at NBC had to eat some serious “humble pie” as well as pay out considerable compensation to O’Brein and his staff who all left the station, with Leno returned to his familiar spot as host of The Tonight Show
Entertainment industry observers attribute the The Tonight Show debacle as being the final straw that saw Zucker have his almost 24 year tenure come to an end in June 2010 after entertainment group Comcast acquired controlling interest in the company.
After a spell out of the spotlight, Jeff Zucker was appointed as President of CNN Worldwide, taking up his role in January 2013 to so far indifferent results as far as viewing figures are concerned.
That’s the reason why Zucker is reported to be very interested in luring Jay Leno to CNN after he hands over the role of hosting the Tonight Show to Jimmy Fallon. It is possible that NBC has learned from their mistakes from the last time round, and Leno, now 63, will be leaving the channel altogether. However Bob Greenblatt, the current chairman of entertainment at NBC is reportedly interested in keeping Jay close to home at NBC in a still to be revealed capacity. Whether Jay will agree, once again, to be kept “ on standby” remains to seen.
Leno and his representatives are keeping tight lipped regarding the chat host and erstwhile stand-up comedian’s future plans, insisting that no decisions or public statements will be made till after Fallon steps into the role as host of the Tonight Show on February the 6th.
Even without taking the Tonight Show fiasco into account, Jeff Zucker will have to use all of his persuasive powers to entice Jay Leno to CNN, with a reported ten other media entities also interested in his talents.
According to media reports, Jeff Zucker did meet up with Leno recently, but whether it was just a social call or something more serious is still wrapped up in secrecy, and looks like being so for a few weeks at least.
At this stage, according to those in the know in the industry, Zucker may need Leno more than Leno needs Zucker, to spark off a much needed catalyst that will begin to push CNN back up the ratings charts.
If Zucker succeeds in bringing Leno to CNN. the lantern- jawed TV personality will be very capable of adding some much needed Pizzazz to the News Channel, filling the formidable shoes of Larry King who left the channel in June 2010 after twenty five years to be replaced by the more conservative, UK born, Piers Morgan.