Lessons of Leno: Why the Future Failed for NBC

NBC's fiasco with The Jay Leno Show demonstrates how the media are stuck between a dying old model and a yet-to-be-invented new one

Illustration for TIME by Francisco Caceres: Photo Frederick M. Brown / Getty

If Jay Leno were to have his NBC bosses on his show, he could ask them what he famously did Hugh Grant in 1995: "What the hell were you thinking?"

NBC made clear what the hell it was thinking in creating The Jay Leno Show. It was trying to adjust to the post–Big Media world. With cable, DVR and online media snagging viewers, programming a full night of expensive TV was a bygone luxury. Leno might get lower ratings than NBC's 10 p.m. dramas, but those were struggling anyway and cost much more.

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