Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Is NBC Backing Out of Prime Time?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is NBC Backing Out of Prime Time?

It was announced a couple of years ago that Jay Leno would be leaving The Tonight Show to be replaced by Conan O'Brien in 2009. There was some question as to what exactly Leno would do, and it was understood that he was fielding offers from ABC and Fox to do late night for them. Although it wasn't clear that this was related to the Leno situation, earlier today, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker suggested that his network might program fewer hours of prime time. On the surface, that sounded like suicide, but a few hours later, it became clear what he was talking about. Jay Leno's moving to prime time. NBC is taking five hours out of its weeknight schedule and giving it to him. Starting in fall 2009, he'll be on every weeknight at 10:00 (9:00 central). Bill Carter tells us in the New York Times that the final hour of the evening has been suffering in the ratings, and that this is one way to address that. But doesn't it seem like answering the problem by giving up is just . . . giving up.

Perhaps network TV is in much worse shape than I've realized. It's under siege from cable, which is featuring more original programming every year. Maybe there's simply not much life left in the networks--we still tune in out of habit, but habits are made to be broken, and as the years progress, new viewers are coming up that never formed that habit to begin with. But every chip that forms in the facade of traditional TV weakens it and makes room for new ones. I can't help but thinking that we're a little bit closer to the end of TV as we've known it.


At 1:54 PM, December 09, 2008, Blogger Jason said...

I had the same reaction at first, but look at NBC's schedule in that hour:

Monday: My Own Worst Enemy. Cancelled
Tuesday: Law & Order SVU -- still a solid show. The only one in this hour.
Wednesday: Law & Order Original Recipe -- I still like it, but I may be the only one. Everyone I know says that this version of the franchise has gotten old, and people have been suggesting it be put out to pasture roughly since the time Jerry Orbach left. So maybe it is time.
Thursday: ER -- ending after this season
Friday: Dateline -- does anyone even watch this any more?

Throw Law & Order SVU on in place of The Biggest Apprentice or whatever, and you're not actually cutting anything that wasn't being cut anyway and/or isn't worth cutting. Now, you can argue that if we assume only SVU and Dateline would be sticking around absent this Leno situation, we are losing 3 hours of new programing that might have been good, and that's a fair point. But I'm not sure I'd call this "giving up" so much as "trying something different."

And it certainly beats another itteration of "Are You Smarter Than the Amazing Bachelor Survivor."

The other thing that intrigues me is that this is almost a chance to benchmark the ratings. Jay Leno will essentially be doing the same show 5 times a week. If his Thursday show (for example) consistently out-performs the other nights' shows, does that say something about which nights we like to watch TV? Or does it simply say something about his competition on the different nights?

At 2:17 PM, December 09, 2008, Blogger Stevie T said...

NBC must be trying to follow the age-group that watches Leno. Golden years bring earlier bedtimes and, so they need to see him before the evening news.

What do you think, JULIET/Alena?


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