NBC Goes for the Bronze

Remember the 1980 Olympic hockey game when announcer Al Michaels famously asked, "Do you believe in miracles?"

Well, when it comes to NBC we don't, especially when it comes to the network's late night schedule.

After months of lackluster ratings and affiliate grumbling, NBC revealed last weekend its intention to reschedule "The Jay Leno Show" once the Winter Olympics begins next month. The plan is for Leno to leave his 10:00 p.m. time slot and return to his former home at 11:35 p.m. once the Olympic torch is lit on Feb. 12, according to NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin. Under the new arrangement, Conan O'Brien would retain his job with "Tonight" but at the later hour of 12:05 a.m., while Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night" show would be pushed back a half-hour later to 1:05 am.

NBC debuted the "The Jay Leno Show," an hour-long, prime time show with a similar format to "The Tonight Show" in September. The show was primarily developed as a means to keep Leno from leaving the network.

For his part, O'Brien said Tuesday he won't go gently into a later "Tonight" show. The funnyman, who is suffering from his own ratings inertia, put out a statement on Tuesday (snarkily addressed to the "People of Earth") saying he would fight the move because "The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show." He also added that he is not speaking to other networks, despite swirling rumors in the media about News Corp.'s ( NWS) Fox network being an aggressive suitor.

You know who must find this hilarious? Comcast ( CMCSA). The cable company purchased majority control over NBC Universal from GE ( GE) in December, just in time to learn that owning the tubes piping programming into people's homes is a snap compared to dealing with talent that fills them.

And it's not like the Olympic flame will ignite profits either. NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said this week it expects to lose money televising the Winter Olympics from Vancouver next month, due to slow ad sales and the stiff rights fee NBC paid to broadcast the games.

"My goal is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy as our late-night lineup," said NBC's Gaspin.

That's what he calls going for the gold? To us it looks like NBC is simply stacking the podium with bronze medalists.

Dumb-o-meter score: 80 -- Somebody tell Arsenio Hall to start warming up in the bullpen. It's comeback time.

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