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Why is NBC messing with Jay Leno? Theory 4: Leno

Jay Leno, star of NBC's "The Tonight Show

Jay Leno, star of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Credit: NBC

In my ongoing series to explain why NBC has committed the deliriously self-destructive act of messing up its successful late night franchise by shoving Jay Leno aside again, I bring you now to Theory No. 4: Jay Leno is doing the messing himself.

This theory is not so outlandish as it seems, and actually was mentioned, albeit as an aside - almost a shrug - in the LA Times account of this fracas the other day (namely, that the Leno camp was doing the leaking to the press, without explanation).

Why would Leno do this? The reason is wonderfully Machiavellian, and even almost plausible - because he had heard that NBC was preparing a transition and decided to blow the network's cover. The value of leaking is several-fold. First of all, you embarrass your nemesis, or at the very least force him to come clean about their plans. You will note that this has in fact blown up in NBC's face and that once again - similar to 1990-91 and 2010 - the story has completely spun out of control.

This not only forces NBC's hand, but instantly puts Leno in play (hmm, like the sound of that .?.?. "Jay in Play"). Other networks will then come knocking, and suddenly his value is increased. There is a story in today's New York Post stating that the chief of the Fox affiliate board is interested in pursuing Leno. Could Fox go after Leno? Why not - though keep in mind Fox has no interest in getting back into late night for the moment. But if someone of Jay Leno's stature comes on the market? Who knows!

Finally, Leno mentioned  a reason last night. He's never been in the papers so much! I call this free promotion, and wait until next Thursday when the late night  ratings for this week come out. Guess whose numbers will be through the roof?

Brilliant, Jay. Just brilliant.

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