Vote for Conan

Gotta love Conan’s statement:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Yours,

Conan

The Consumerist is calling for an EECB (executive e-mail carpet bomb), publishing their particulars…

JOHN.ECK@nbc.com, Jeff.Gaspin@nbc.com, JEFF.ZUCKER@nbc.com, jeff.zucker@nbcuni.com, STEVE.CAPUS@nbc.com, ALLISON.GOLLUST@nbc.com, PAULA.MADISON@nbc.com, CORY.SHIELDS@nbc.com, JOHN.WALLACE@nbc.com, David.Verdi@nbc.com, Jeff.Zucker@nbc.com, Bob.Wright@nbc.com, LYNN.CALPETER@nbc.com, DICK.EBERSOL@nbc.com, MARK.HOFFMAN@nbc.com, MICHAEL.PILOT@nbc.com, david.verdi@nbc.com, MARC.CHINI@nbcuni.com, Alyssa.Corcoran@nbcuni.com, MICHAEL.BASS@nbcuni.com, MICHAEL.PILOT@nbcuni.com, Ron.Lamprecht@nbcuni.com

You can also call Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal at 212-664-2830.

Personally, I think Conan’s show at 12:30 was more fun to watch, so I prefer tuning in to Letterman. Conan — a brilliant comic — needs more time to “find his groove,” as Leno did before him.

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Land of the Lost

Another biggie. Comcast is negotiating to buy NBC Universal from GE. The scoop, via The Wrap:

Comcast, the nation’s leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services, is in talks to buy the entertainment giant NBC-Universal from General Electric, according to knowledgeable individuals.

Deal points were hammered out at a meeting among bankers for both sides in New York on Tuesday, executives familiar with the meeting said.

Two individuals informed about the meeting said that a deal had already been completed at a purchase price of $35 billion.

A spokeswoman for NBC-Universal had no comment. Comcast responded with this statement: “While we do not normally comment on M&A rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate.”

NBC-Universal has been believed to be in play for months, although GE has publicly denied any intention of selling the unit. In recent weeks, minority stakeholder Vivendi has been apparently preparing to exercise its right to sell 20 percent of the entertainment company in an IPO.

Comcast has been among those rumored to be interested in buying that equity.

But the Tuesday meeting was about a much larger gambit, according to the knowledgeable individuals. The NBC-Universal division of GE, a premium content company, is a likely fit for the cable giant with its massive distribution pipeline. That is especially the case when the division’s potential price tag has dropped significantly from a year ago.

Comcast’s market cap is $48.44 billion. NBC-Universal has fallen in value to an estimated $35 billion in value, from about $55 billion a year ago.

Other suitors have been rumored to be interested in NBC-Universal, including Time Warner. Time Warner has denied any interest in a purchase.

The talks come after a rough summer for Universal Pictures, which had one of the worst box office runs in the studio’s recent past. And NBC has remained mired in fourth place among broadcast networks.

The message transmitted at a tense board meeting in New York in July — where top NBC-Universal executives including Jeff Zucker, Ron Meyer, Marc Shmuger and David Linde all met with GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt and Vivendi representatives — was that something had better change soon.

Earnings at the studio have been down drastically from last year for the second quarter in a row. Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” only brought in $60 million worldwide, while “Bruno” brought in the same amount domestically. On the Will Ferrell comedy “Land of the Lost,” Universal lost some $40 million.

Love this Today Show clip from a few months ago.

The Spiffy Channel

NBC Universal’s SciFi Channel had a very good year, reports Television Week:

Sci Fi is coming off the best year in its history. In primetime it ranked 13th in total viewers among ad-supported cable networks in 2008. It’s a top-10 network in both adults 18 to 49 (up 4%) and adults 25 to 54 (up 6%).

During its fourth-quarter earnings call, parent General Electric said Sci Fi racked up a double-digit increase in operating earnings despite the beginnings of the recession.

They’re using this success to rebrand the channel to SyFy. When I first read it, I thought it rhymed with “spiffy.”

Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? From the press release:

While continuing to embrace our legacy and our core audience, we needed to cultivate a distinct point of view with a name that we could own that invites more people in and reflects our broader range of programming,” said Mr. Howe in making the announcement. “Syfy allows us to build on our 16 year heritage of success with a new brand built on the power that fuels our genre: the Imagination. Syfy ushers in a new era of unlimited imagination, exceptional experiences and greater entertainment that paves the way for us to truly become a global lifestyle brand.”

Since I used to work for GE, I have a bias and tend to agree with the lion’s share of their marketing decisions. With this one, however, I don’t think this is a good idea. Most people in this Slashdot discussion don’t like the change either:

Why? To pull in a more ‘mainstream’ audience. If you’re unclear what ‘more mainstream’ means, TV Historian Tim Brooks spells it out for you: ‘The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular.’ Yes, we should probably all be offended. And telling us that a crack marketing team came up with the name because that’s how tech-savvy 18-to-34 year-olds would text it really doesn’t help.”

Matt Blum at Wired doesn’t think they asked any geeks about this change:

I heard somewhere they considered several hundred other new names before settling on this one; if so, I can’t imagine how bad the others must’ve been. And, assuming they ran the change past a focus group or two, did they bother to include even a single geek in them? Because I can’t imagine any geek not breaking out into a rant at the idea.

I’ve been through quite a few branding discussions/projects in the last ten years and I don’t understand how this is the best name to rebrand the SciFi Channel with.