Second in an irregular series
NBC latenight is in turmoil, caused by the disappointing results for Leno at 10pm, and Conan's inability to hold the 11:35pm audience he inherited.
Looks like the solution NBC is going for is give Leno 30 minutes, and push back their other shows.
I don't think that's the best solution, here's how I'd fix it and make everyone more or less happy.
M-Th give each latenight host a 45 minute show, Leno at 11:35, Conan at 12:20, Fallon at 1:05. Have one sitdown guest per show, one musical guest, and the usual filler for the rest.
Make Friday nights 'live' comedy night, and give each a 90 minute show to end each week with. Leno gets 8-9:30p, Conan gets 9:30-11p, and Fallon gets 11:35p-1:05a. Have each show book one guest, one stand-up or other comedy act, and one musical act that gets two songs each night. Each week they could rotate which host does a special live show in a different market for their Friday show. It'd give the affiliates something to promote, it would increase the profile of their latenight shows, and even with the travel, it'd still probably be an economical way to program a chunk of airtime that doesn't draw a whole bunch of viewers. I figure each host could do one third of 42 live Friday shows each year in 42 different cities, with each visiting 14 cities as they rotate which host gets sent each week to markets outside of their home bases.
Giving Conan a weekly primetime gig might help assuage hurt feelings for being pushed back to late late night, and same goes for Leno, he'd still have a primetime show one night a week, and for Fallon, he could turn his Friday show into a semi-SNL one night early sort of thing.
NBC screwed up big with how they handled Leno and the Tonight Show, they probably should have just let Leno go, and backed Conan 100%, or they should have torn up Conan's contract and let him leave if they thought they made a mistake by pushing out Leno, by trying to keep and please both, they diluted their brand, lost audience, and pissed off their talent. None of that is fixable, now, the damage has been done, but I think shorter M-Th shows combined with an expanded Friday show might be an innovative way to mitigate some of the damage.