leno jay jerryIt’s well known that NBC affiliates are beginning to balk about this fall’s “Leno effect” drain on their late news ratings. Stations in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York report losses ranging from 22% to 30% compared to last year. And with the Jay Leno Show eking out just a 1.5 or 1.6 rating after 5 weeks on the air, and losing to a week of repeats even though it’s got fresh episodes 46 weeks out of the year, it’s no surprise that defensive Leno is going on the offensive since he admits his numbers will get even worse during November sweeps. Jay told B&C he personally called a “bunch” of the affiliates last week “just to get feedback” and noted: “Unless they are the greatest actors in the world, they seem to be hanging in there and say they are in it for the long haul. I called Baltimore, Boston, the head of the affiliate board. They don’t see it as dire as a lot of people are making it out to be.” Here is Leno’s best info from the interview:

– ”The first week, people kind of went after us because it looked like the old show.”
– ”I’ve seen some articles that are a little more, ‘It’s not Jay’s fault, its NBC’s fault.’”
– “I’m not protecting Jeff Zucker, nor am I hiding behind him. I could have said no.”
– “There is enough work out there, so people shouldn’t necessarily be mad at me for taking the 10 o’clock spot.”
– “I’m not here because the 10 PM period was widely successful. I’m here because nothing else was working.”
– “Lead-ins are important. On the nights when we have a strong lead-in, we are competitive; on the nights we don’t, it’s up to us to try and carry the ball ourselves.
“– ”The numbers seem to tell us people [who] are watching the show are staying the whole hour.”
– “I find that when I go to Vegas, whereas before I might not sell out, all of a sudden it’s sold out.”
– “This is our toughest period; Sweeps we’ll do the worst, non-sweeps we’ll do the best.”
– “Would I have preferred to stay at 11:30? Yeah, sure. I would have preferred that.”
– “If [11:35 pm] were offered to me, would I take it? If that’s what they wanted to do, sure.”
– “Conan is in the same position I was in when I took over.”
– “I wouldn’t trade places with Dave now for anything! I don’t think he’s getting a free pass.”
– “If it were me, it would kill me. I’m the guy who’s been married 29 years. But Dave has never pretended to be Mr. Moral America, he’s never set himself up that way. He’s not a hypocrite.”
– “Do I enjoy the battle? Yes, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from pounding my head against the wall.”
– “I do take a certain perverse pleasure in this. See how low you can go, rock bottom, before you can keep crawling back up again.”
– I’ve never walked away from anything in my life….This is what I do. You keep plowing ahead. If someone wants to take you out, I’m out.”
– “As long I’m making money for the company, I will be here. When I’m not making money for the company, I won’t be here.”
– “There’s an ownership change here every six months. I’ve been through nine of them!”

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.