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NBC's Jeff Gaspin on emotions and late-night TV

January 26, 2010 | 12:11 pm

LAS VEGAS -- NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin said he had not counted on the emotional factor when trying to restructure NBC's prime-time and late-night lineups by moving Jay Leno back to 11:30 p.m. and bumping Conan O'Brien to 12:05 a.m.

GASPIN "I underestimated the emotional impact it would have on Conan," Gaspin said at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas this morning. Gaspin said he thought O'Brien would go along with the plan.

"My goal was to keep both of them," Gaspin said in an interview session here. Interestingly, while Gaspin's boss, NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker, has often said he gave Leno a prime-time show because it would be cheaper than programming dramas, Gaspin said stopping Leno from going to ABC was "the primary focus."

Despite the beating the network has been taking in the press, Gaspin said he doesn't think either NBC or  Leno are tarnished. "Jay will go back ... the audience will start to come back," he said. 

While General Electric Co. chief executive Jeff Immelt recently said NBC would lose $250 million on the Olympics, Gaspin said the Games will be a "cleansing moment" for the network. After the games, the network will have its new 10 p.m. lineup in place and its new -- well old and new -- late night.

Asked by Broadcasting & Cable editor Ben Grossman if NBC's decisions to go back to dramas at 10 p.m., Leno at 11:35  and other moves the network had made recently was a sign that NBC was losing its nerve when it came to risks, Gaspin cracked, "It takes a lot of nerve to do some of the things we just did."

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Jeff Gaspin. Credit: Mitchell Haaseth / NBC