It seems like just yesterday that we watched the very public break-up between Conan O'Brien and NBC over The Tonight Show, and you may recall that back in April we learned that Microsoft had been courting Conan to bring his brand of humor to Xbox Live as exclusive programming. As it turns out, Microsoft wasn't the only console manufacturer / online service provider to reach out to a talk show host. Back in 2008 before Conan took over on The Tonight Show and before NBC came up with the "comedy at ten o'clock" idea that would become the maligned The Jay Leno Show, once-and-future Tonight host Jay Leno was looking to pack up move elsewhere at the end of his Tonight run. ABC and Fox were interested in picking him up to compete with NBC, as was, surprisingly, Sony. Bill Carter's recently released The War for Late Night chronicles the behind-the-scenes story of the Leno/Conan/NBC shake-up. Here's a bit of the book that explains how Sony had hoped to lock Leno into the Sony fold (PlayStation brand included):
Even as he leaned toward ABC and away from Fox, another possibility floated Jay's way. Sony Pictures Television was looking for a big syndicated late-night franchise to match what it had in the daytime hours with Oprah, with whom the company had a distribution deal. Sony laid a goody-laden package under Jay's nose: the biggest payday in late night, more than $40 million a year; ownership of his own show and a companion twelve thirty show (the match of Letterman's deal with CBS); and a landmark new studio on Sony's Culver City low. "When he walks on the lot, there'll be a Yellow Brick Road to the Jay Leno Theater," said one Sony executive, adding that it would become "the centerpiece of the Sony lot."
Sony was even dangling connections to Sony's music division — if Jay broke new artists on the show he might get cut in on a percentage of their sales. The company promised to think of ways to associated Jay with its PlayStation franchise, maybe promotions in the products, something to help Jay reach the young men obsessed with video games.
I think we can all agree that Jay Leno as a PlayStation figurehead, pitchman, or representative would never have worked. Leno's comedy is aimed at a much older demographic than "young men obsessed with video games", and much more of the PlayStation audience sides with Team Coco over Leno. What would Leno have done for the brand, anyway? Would he have appeared in PlayStation commercials? Pitched the products on the air? Would he have taken on the Kevin Butler role? Maybe hosted Qore? How about a promotional tie-in with a hot racing simulator: Jay Leno's Gran Turismo? No, I don't believe that such a deal would have worked well for anyone in the end.