This past week’s announcement that The Jay Leno Show has been cancelled and that NBC is trying to keep all three of its late night hosts happy has the potential to be an HR lesson we all can learn from.
A few years back, Conan O’Brien negotiated a deal to stay at NBC and earned the right to host The Tonight Show. NBC feared losing O’Brien in a similar way that they lost David Letterman years ago when a move to 11:30 wasn’t in the cards.
After deciding to create a new show for Jay Leno at 10pm, many questioned the move and its impact on all of NBC’s lineup.
Now that the move has failed, NBC faces losing O’Brien again, possibly even losing Jimmy Fallon, and creating an HR situation that could cost them money, viewership, and people.
To bring this into a business environment, think about a valuable employee who is seeking new opportunities that has transitioned into a new role; what steps do you take to ensure this person is going to be a success in that new job? What are the fail-safes you put in place in the event the transition does not work?
In the NBC late night dilemma, O’Brien had earned his right to host The Tonight Show by committing to stay with NBC for a few more years waiting to take the new role. When Leno left the role, that created the opportunity for O’Brien to step up and perform in his new “promotion”.
I think the best way to handle this situation from an HR perspective is to find a new role for Jay Leno elsewhere on the network (perhaps a comedy talk show at a different hour, not late night). O’Brien has held his own against Letterman, and although the ratings aren’t quite where they were, he didn’t have the kind of support Leno did in the same role (a strong lead in program).
From the way it looks, NBC may take the wrong approach and totally shift the lineup yet again in late night. More to come as this story develops…