January 15, 2010
late night wars

Whoa hey check out this New York Times article from 1992, when NBC was debating whether to drop Jay Leno from The Tonight Show after only six months and replace him with David Letterman:

Jay Leno, expressing what he called "surprise and disappointment" with NBC executives, said yesterday that he believed his performance as the host of the "Tonight" show should have more than satisfied the network and that he did not deserve to be threatened with losing the leading show in late-night television to David Letterman.
"I am disappointed," Mr. Leno said. "I feel like a guy who has bought a car from somebody, painted it, fixed it up and made it look nice and then the guy comes back and says he promised to sell the car to his brother-in-law."

Mr. Leno said he would "obviously leave NBC immediately" if the network decided to give the "Tonight" show to Mr. Letterman. He said he would absolutely refuse to do a show in the 12:30 A.M. spot now occupied by Mr. Letterman's show, "Late Night," and would indeed consider creating the same problem for NBC that Mr. Letterman's proposed deal with CBS caused.

"Would I go to CBS if they asked me?" Mr. Leno said. "Of course. I'm not going to do some little happy hour from Omaha at 12:30."

Beyond the $16 million to Mr. Letterman, NBC would have to pay Mr. Leno about $10 million if it breaks its commitment to him to be the host of "Tonight." NBC now pays Mr. Leno $3 million a year as the host of "Tonight."

"NBC is like a guy with two girlfriends who doesn't know which one he's going to marry on Jan. 15," Mr. Leno said. "And the longer you wait, the madder they both get."