Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Favre, Leno, and Corporate Succession Planning
Skip Oliva from the Mises.org website has an interesting take on the similarities and differences between what happened to NBC and the Green Bay Packers when it came to finding a smooth succession plan for their franchise players.
Here's a snippet, you can read the entire post here.
Publicly, Leno and Favre cleared a path for their successors. Leno spoke on his "Tonight Show" about the importance of keeping O'Brien at NBC and the need to avoid a repeat of Leno's own problematic transition from Johnny Carson. Favre never publicly supported Rodgers, but in 2008, after many years of wavering on the subject, Favre finally announced his retirement.
Both men then changed their minds. Leno decided he still wanted to tell jokes on television every night, and Favre wanted to continue throwing a football. NBC and Green Bay had already installed their successors, but no matter. The question now was how would each organization's management respond?
Green Bay stuck to its guns. Rodgers was their starter going into the 2008 season. When Favre realized he couldn't simply have his old job back, he demanded his unconditional release (he was still under contract even after retiring). Green Bay said no, primarily because they did not want Favre to sign with Minnesota and compete against the Packers in their division. Instead, Green Bay traded Favre to the New York Jets on the condition that New York didn't turn around and re-trade Favre to Minnesota. That didn't stop Favre. A year later, he lied about his retirement a second time to secure his unconditional release from New York, whereupon Favre signed with the Vikings.
In contrast to Favre, Leno was perfectly free to sign with another network after his contract expired in 2009. He was under no ethical duty to retire. But once word got out that he might go to ABC or Fox, NBC management panicked. Zucker and his lieutenants offered Leno a new contract that would revive his one-hour program - sans the "Tonight Show" name now contractually obligated to O'Brien - to air during the prime-time hour of 10 p.m. NBC spun the new "Jay Leno Show" as a revolutionary idea that would cut the network's programming costs - talk shows are cheaper then scripted dramas - while keeping both of its popular hosts in the NBC family.
NBC's refusal to "move on" proved disastrous. Leno's 10 p.m. show tanked in the ratings and destroyed the lead-in for the affiliated stations' local news - their major revenue source. Leno's program also diluted the "Tonight Show" brand, as Leno and O'Brien were now directly competing for guests and viewer attention.
Skip and I are also in agreement that NBC has made a MAJOR mistake by backing Leno, and letting Conan go. Even if you prefer Leno now, the reality is that he's more likley to need replacing - again - in the not so distant future.
And with the Tonite Show "brand" permantly damaged/compromised by this fiasco, there's no use in trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.