Rogers confirmed yesterday what had been speculated for weeks: that its City TV stations have picked up NBC's radical, five nights a week primetime broadcasts of the up coming Jay Leno Show.
Leno stripped at 10 p.m. is a cheap fix for a Canadian schedule that could use a boost at that hour. Aside from the still potent Hell's Kitchen (which I'm sure they'll find room for at an earlier hour), City's 10 p.m. schedule in Toronto is filled with shows no one will ever miss, including NBC's Dateline and a few hours that are just a notch about being infomercials.
Being the Leno at 10 station is an affordable, easy to grasp alternative for Rogers, which has City stations in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. It's a gamble (especially for NBC), but one that comes with a cheaper price tag than paying to import five different dramas or even reality shows or, hell, something as radical as actually making a show yourself.
The upside is that Leno could do better than everybody thinks he will. Count on those first few weeks to be stacked with big name guests and hot bands. This show will make some noise when it premieres in August, traditionally a quiet month for other broadcasters.
There was never any chance CTV would bid on Leno, with its schedule already packed with 10 p.m. winners. Even their A channel has big American shows like Without a Trace and Private Practice. Global might have looked at it, but they have deals in place for shows like Heroes and Numb3rs on the main network and are probably committed to cheap distractions like Snoop Dog and Kimora on E (stations they're desperately trying to unload, anyway).
Rogers has nothing to lose betting on Leno, a guy you should never bet against. The "but" is that his Tonight Show, which currently airs on A channels in Canada, has never been the dominant late night player north of the border that it is in the U.S.
Looking at any weeknight numbers (Thurs., Feb. 12, for example). Here is how the talk/comedy shows stack up in the greater Toronto market (2+ overnight audience estimates, BBM/NMR data):
The Daily Show (CFTO, 12:05) 104,000
The Colbert Report (CFTO, 12:35) 63,000
The Tonight Show (CKVR, 11:35) 38,000
Late Show with David Letterman (OMNI1, 11:35) 31,000
The Hour (CBLT, 11 p.m.): 27,000
Conan O'Brien (CKVR, 12:37) 16,000
Jimmy Kimmel Live (CITY, 12:05) 2,000
For fans of Conan O'Brien, a reminder that tonight is his 2,725th and last Late Night show (12:37 a.m., NBC and A). The final week has been terrific, with great clips from past sketches, including Triumph gooning Star Wars nerds in New York, Conan in Finland and O'Brien's surreal visit with Hunter S. Thompson. He heads for L.A. now to prepare for his Tonight Show takeover, which premieres June 1. Read more about O'Brien's farewell in The Canadian Press report I filed here as well as in this report from The New York Times' Bill Carter.
CTV's A channel will stick with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon when it premieres March 2. Robert De Niro and Van Morrison are booked as opening night guests.