We’ve always known that James Hibberd, our former TVWeek colleague, is one of the best reporters around, but the following reportage astounds even us!
Back in December, 2008, after Hibberd left us for The Hollywood Reporter, he wrote a piece quoting a "well placed late-night source" who explained that Leno was being kept at NBC in case Conan didn’t pull numbers and the network could then replace O’Brien with Leno.
In a piece published on Dec. 9, 2008–on the occasion of NBC announcing Leno’s move to 10 p.m.–Hibberd said he had spoken to the source in June, 2008, who had told Hibberd this:
"They [NBC] will try to keep Jay in the fold so if Conan fails on ‘The Tonight Show’ they will put Jay right back in there. Jeff Zucker will call Jay into his office with big wink and say, ‘if you say it publicly I’ll deny it, but if Conan fails, I want you back.’ That’s just the way NBC works. Back when Dave and Jay were fighting over ‘The Tonight Show,’ they tried to see if they could do the same thing. That’s what they’re going to try and do here with Jay and Conan, only they are more likely to pull it off this time. One of the most important things to remember about NBC, is they had Coke with Carson. There was no Pepsi. They gave birth to Dave, then they suddenly had a cola war. They cannot bear the idea of Conan or Jay going across the street."
Very impressive. Kudos, James.