As expected, CNBC this morning confirmed Jay Leno is returning to The Networks Of NBCU, to will host a “new” primetime series for the network — tentatively titled Jay Leno’s Garage which, in one of those incredible coincidences, is the name of his Emmy winning web series. Jay Leno’s Garage is a hit with more than 1 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 105 million lifetime views.
In confirming the report that got out earlier this month, the network did not announce a play pattern for the weekly primetime series — only that it will premiere “in 2015.” Putting the CNBC spin on it, the network said the show will be “the place where Jay shares his passion for all things automotive, including best investments, valuations and the inner workings of the car collector’s market.”
Probably more accurately, Leno said, in today’s announcement, “This show will be about anything that rolls, explodes and makes noise.” adding. “We hope to highlight the passion and the stories behind the men and women who made the automobile the greatest invention of the 20th century.”
“Jay Leno’s Garage” will be produced for CNBC in association with Leno’s Big Dog Productions. Leno is the executive producer.
Jay Leno, the all-suffering-est NBCUniversal loyalist, is being deployed to help boost the media conglom’s cable business network as it comes off its lowest-rated quarter of the year in primetime and the lowest-rated quarter in its history in the demo for the business day, 9 AM-5 PM. And yet, in its coverage of the announcement on NBC, Today show wondered, to Leno, in a taped bit, “If you’re a fan of Jay Leno the comedian are you going to enjoy Jay Leno the car guy?” To his credit, Leno resisted the urge to bonk the interviewer over the head with a blunt object, and instead explained patiently that the show will feature the “occasional celebrity” and “some humor.”
In today’s announcement CNBC called itself “the fastest growing network among the 18-49 and 25-54 demos in primetime” — a reference to the success it has had recently, fueled by reruns of ABC’s Mark Burnett-produced reality series Shark Tank, in which rich people decide whether to give budding entrepreneurs the money/deals they need to make them rich too.
CNBC already tested the idea of a Leno-hosted primetime show when it telecast Jay Leno’s Garage: The Ultimate Car Week over Labor Day weekend. At 10 PM that Sunday, Leno clocked 416,000 viewers (139,000 of them in the news demo), more than tripling the crowd CNBC clocked in the same time slot during Labor Day weekend in 2013. That special/backdoor pilot was an extension of sorts to Leno’s popular web series still found on NBC.com — eight months after NBC gave Jay the boot, for a second time, from his Tonight Show gig, this time to make way for Jimmy Fallon.
Despite being twice tossed, Jay’s never really stopped toiling for ratings for the company. Over the summer, he became the final mentor on Last Comic Standing as NBC looked to resurrect that summer franchise. More recently, he lent a hand to the network’s struggling Today show, which used him to promote its weatherman Al Roker, using a USO comedy tour stop in Afghanistan as their backdrop.
CNBC has been looking to broaden its primetime slate with reality TV formats. In January, the network boasted its New Year’s Day marathon of Shark Tank drew the network’s largest average audience in the news demo in six years. The marathon had drawn more than 4.2 million unique viewers, averaging more than 540,000 total viewers and 240,000 adults 25-54 from 8 PM-2 AM ET. During its peak hours, it averaged nearly 700,000 total viewers and 300,000 adults 25-54, ranking No. 1 during the 10 PM hour among all cable news networks in 18-49, 25-54 and 35-64 demos. The 10 PM airing was CNBC’s most-watched program in three years, while the 9 PM telecast was the net’s highest-rated among adults 25-54 in three years, the network bragged back then, based on early stats. Those numbers represented triple-digit ratings growth for the network among total viewers (287%) and adults 25-54 (345%) compared with the net’s time-period averages during fourth-quarter 2013.