Three years ago, CNN booted Larry King. At the time, he was #1 of all CNN programming and their CNN brand (brands are of huge value to networks.) CNN wanted to hire Piers Morgan …so, hire him, but don’t get rid of your #1 show. If I were hell bent on hiring another and new talent, I would find another time slot for the new talent. I would not get rid of my #1 talent. This is not to say Larry should stay forever — none of us should – - but rather how best to make programming decisions.
Piers Morgan could have been placed in any of the other 23 hour programming at CNN and maybe done better than he ultimately did (but he did have an uphill battle against Sean Hannity.) Adding to the difficulties of the network, is that CNN was particularly clumsy in how it handled Larry because Larry totally left CNN thus stripping CNN of its key brand. CNN should have kept Larry even if moved him out of the 9pm slot. Larry could have done specials for the network or even a show on the CNN web page like he is doing now for someone else. Now? CNN is minus its heaviest brand. I think that is shooting yourself in the foot.
Likewise…Jay Leno, #1, was released from NBC’s The Tonight Show for Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon has had a great first week and may sustain it or he may just be on the proverbial new show honeymoon. Regardless of how Fallon does in the next few months (and I hope he does well as I like success), one thing is clear, both Leno and Fallon are great talents. If I were in charge of NBC (and I am not and no one asked me), I would have figured out a way to keep both.
Yes, I know….people said that Fallon would have left NBC if he were not given The Tonight Show but I don’t buy it. I have been in the business long enough to know how this works – including that it is not fun to leave your network where you have many friends and great memories. There are always ways in this TV business to “sweeten the pot” to make people stay. It can be more money or additional responsibilities and opportunities – or both.
Don’t believe me? Try extreme mock example Q and A below:
Jimmy Fallon: “I am leaving if you don’t give me The Tonight Show.”
NBC management: ”How about 25 million dollars, no cut contract, and the hour before or after The Tonight Show (your choice)..and 4 prime time specials during the year.”
Jimmy Fallon: “Where do I sign?”
What is often one of the biggest problems with new management at networks (and in other businesses) is that a new CEO / President comes in and wants to quickly put his stamp on the network (business) and do something big (get rid of #1 talent?) instead of examining what is working and massaging it to be better.
Management stability also makes a big difference.