I just read Bill Carter’s book The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. It’s a good look at issues in organizational psychology, because it describes in detail how a lot of seemingly smart people worked together to accomplish a lot of dumb things.
One reason that Leno got killed in the ratings at 10 P.M. is that the show was really bad. But bad shows have succeeded on TV before. Leno also faced a new television ecosystem.
In 2009 key demographic group ratings for network 10 P.M. shows were just half of what they had been five years earlier. And a reason for that was that some 40 percent of households now had the technology of digital video recorders, allowing people to easily program their own TV schedules.
And a habit many people had apparently gotten into was to use the 10 P.M. hour to catch up on programs they had recorded either earlier that night or even earlier in the week. So Leno at 10 wasn’t just up against alternative network programming. Thanks to consumer technology, he was up against millions of people’s personal programming options, too.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]