In Depth

NBC Wants to Keep Daly on ‘Last Call’

Talks Ongoing in Wake of Leno Shift

NBC has begun conversations aimed at keeping Carson Daly on board as host of the network’s late-late-night franchise “Last Call.”

Last Call With Carson Daly

Mr. Daly’s current deal with the network expires in August. Some television industry insiders had wondered whether NBC would want to continue Mr. Daly’s show in the wake of the December deal to shift Jay Leno into primetime, thus giving NBC four consecutive evening talk shows on weeknights.

What’s more, Mr. Daly had let it be known that he was interested in replacing Conan O’Brien as host of NBC’s “Late Night.” The network ultimately chose Jimmy Fallon for that gig.

But Rick Ludwin, NBC’s executive VP for late night and primetime series, said Mr. Daly wants to stay at the network—and the network wants to stick with Mr. Daly.

“We have begun conversations with Carson,” Mr. Ludwin told TelevisionWeek. “We do want to continue with Carson Daly, both with ‘Last Call’ and with [his] New Year’s Eve [specials].”

Mr. Ludwin praised Mr. Daly and executive producer David Friedman for “doing a terrific job” garnering viewers and buzz.

While NBC has started talking to Mr. Daly’s camp about a new deal, Mr. Ludwin could not flatly predict “Last Call” will extend beyond August. That’s because NBC is still in the process of reviewing budgets on all of its broadcasts as it tries to manage its way through the challenging economic environment facing the entire TV industry.

“We’re going through the budgetary process with all of our shows.” Mr. Ludwin said. “There are new budgetary realities. … It’s tough. We want to keep [Carson] going as long as we can make the budget work.”

One factor working in “Last Call’s” favor is that the show, like other late-night programs, has actively sought ways to integrate advertiser messages into its broadcast. An outdoor concert series has drawn sponsors such as the city of Las Vegas.

“There are opportunities even at 1:30 in the morning,” Mr. Ludwin said.

Ratings-wise, “Last Call” has been a solid and consistent performer for NBC, and one that’s actually defying the industry trend of viewer erosion.

Season-to-date, the show is averaging 1.16 million viewers, up 4% from the 1.11 million viewers it averaged last season. The show is flat in terms of adults 18 to 49 and adults 18 to 34 ratings averages (notching a 0.4 Nielsen rating in both measures), but has actually shown modest gains in total viewers in those demographics.

“Last Call” is particularly strong in adults 18 to 34. In fact, NBC says that, despite airing at a later hour, so far this season Mr. Daly’s series has beat CBS’ “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” four times and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” five times in the younger demographic.

Mr. Daly’s New Year’s Eve special also has turned into a player for NBC. The event has added viewers in each of the four years it’s aired, rising to 8.6 million viewers and a 3.0/10 among adults 18 to 49 this year.

As for “Last Call,” the series debuted in 2002, replacing NBC’s long-running “Later” franchise.