Tonight, Jay Leno returns to Tonight Show
NBC is hoping viewers have gotten over the whole firing Conan O'Brien thing and will return to watch Leno like nothing ever happened, except for the fact that NBC paid Conan $45 million to go away.
NBC promised in 2005 to turn over the Tonight Show to Conan in 2009. They did, his ratings tanked, and Leno's experimental 10 p.m. version of his show didn't bring in enough viewers, which hurt local affiliates, many of whom threatened to dump Leno's 10 p.m. show.
Leno was No. 1 in his 11:35 p.m. time slot for 15 of his 17 years as host. During the last year, he averaged 5.2 million viewers. When Conan took over, around 2.4 million of those viewers disappeared. Where did those people go?
Apparently, they stopped watching television at that hour, or they turned on their DVRs and watched pre-recorded programs. David Letterman didn't see a huge bump in viewers, and neither did other programs.