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NBC: Leno's 10 p.m. show: Dead by Feb. 12



  That's the offiical confirmation out of the press tour in Pasadena. The NBC executive session started at 10 PT, and no reason to beat around the bushes: "Leno" is dead-o on Feb. 12.

  NBC chief in charge of just about everything that goes out on the tube - Jeff Gaspin - told TV writers what TV writers already knew - it wasn't working for affils. 

  Yes - he added - they want Jay at 11:35, Co at 12:05, and Fallon at 1:05. deals in place.

  Here's what the Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed has: "While it was performing at acceptable levels, [our affiliates were unhappy] ... My goal right now is to keep Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon as part of our late-night lineup. As much as I'd like to tell you we a have a done deal, we know that's not true."

"I hope and expect that before the Olympics begin, we will have everything set. I can't imagine we won't have everything in place before then."

  The NBC plug-pulling was of course an open secret and Gaspin was expected to come clean. But what's surprising is just how fluid the whole business is. Gaspin said NBC will fill in the hours with a mixture of reality and "Law & Orders," and anything else that comes out of the grabbag he will be forced to reach into shortly. 

  But by admitting that Conan remained out on the perimeter - so to speak - his entire late night strategy is equally screwed up. Conan goes and NBC may be forced - per many press reports - to also part with many millions; its dignity is already in shreds, so what's a few extra million just to salt the wound, you ask. 

   TMZ - which has by far the best sourcing on this story (I smell the work of a mutual agent) - says Co could walk and sit five years on the beach, with an $80 million payout. Or: He could go to Fox/ABC and if they pay him only $15 million, then NBC would have to eat the $5 million balance (Co's paid a ridiculous $20 m per year - but then all of these salaries are ridiculous.)

  Gaspin, in fact, was probably the executive directly in charge of this decision - Jeff Zucker has been pinned with almost all the blame, by the blame-hungry press. But as new boss, he heard loud and clear from NBC's owned stations and a couple hundred affiliates that "The Jay Leno Show" was no longer tenable, and in fact, was destroying their late local news, and in fact, their entire news franchises. 

  As affiliates around the nation see dwindling viewers and dwindling profits, they're hanging on to news as their last best hope.


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