Did Olympics — or Affiliates — Trigger NBC Mess?

If somebody at NBC woke up and said, “Hey, if we’re going to make a latenight shift, we should do it right after the Olympics,” well, chalk that up as another dumb idea.

Whatever the boost associated with having the Olympics as a promotional platform (and the long-term benefits of that have always been questionable), racing to juggle its primetime and latenight configuration by an arbitrary March date has resulted in a wholesale mess, leaving the talent unsecured (and insecure) and the press to wildly speculate about what sort of resolution might be reached.

If the deadline had anything to do with a late-January meeting with affiliates, again, station owners surely could have been stalled for awhile so NBC could come to a decision that didn’t resemble an unplanned fire drill. The Los Angeles Times had a particularly good story on how NBC came to this place, which has regularly involved confusing necessity with strategy.

Any move that displaced one of its high-profile hosts would have been problematic from a public-relations standpoint, but rushing to alter the situation now risks making a bad situation considerably worse. Seriously, is the value of Olympic promos such that NBC couldn’t have pushed taking action to the spring and re-launched in the fall, when programmers might have an idea if any of the pilots they’re ordering are worth putting on the air?

Meanwhile, Conan O’Brien joined Jay Leno in lampooning the network on “The Tonight Show,” which is probably about all the two can agree upon right now.

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