Leno To 10PM–Very Smart

“NBC will keep Jay Leno five nights a week, but in prime time, competing not with David Letterman, but with shows like “C.S.I. Miami.” The network will announce Tuesday that Mr. Leno’s new show will appear at 10 o’clock each weeknight in a format similar to “The Tonight Show,” which he has hosted since 1993. – Bill Carter, NY Times

jay-conan.jpgThis is genius. With this one move NBC guarantees its future going forward. It’s an offensive, defensive and strategic move all at the same time.

No secret here–network television (and local television) is in sad shape. Our business model continues to deteriorate in this horrible economic climate and in the face of increased competition from the Internet. NBC and the other networks have to do something to remain viable.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a cost saving move. The Tonight Show, even with an enlarged budget, is light years cheaper to produce than scripted episodic television. I would guess the demographics are comparable, maybe even better than episodic fare.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM lets NBC run a program that it controls 100%. There is no one but Leno to deal with. I’d guess he’s getting a long term commitment.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a defensive move. With Conan O’Brien set to take the 11:35 PM slot there were rumors of Leno jumping to ABC. Obviously, that’s off the table. At this moment, NBC ‘owns’ all the established talk show talent except David Letterman–who has seen much better days.

This is bad news for the Hollywood production community. Five weekly hours of high budget TV will no longer be produced. That will throw a lot of people out-of-work.

How this move do anything but benefit NBC? Even slightly lower ratings than what’s being replaced (if that happens) still has the potential to produce higher net revenue. Whether the affiliates benefit remains to be seen. Over the past decade networks have shown less than unwavering support for their local stations.

Tweeting on Twitter, the Times Brian Stelter says, “Leno at 10 would seem somewhat DVR-proof and Web-proof — a smart move by NBC, right?”

I wonder if he’ll do the show live? He should.

4 Responses to “Leno To 10PM–Very Smart”

  1. Matt Scott says:

    “That does not mean that neither the network nor Mr. Leno has no risk in the move. Mr. Leno’s shows tend to fare best in their first half hour; if they were to decline too much in the second half hour, NBC’s affiliated stations would see their news shows adversely affected. And there may be some question about whether Mr. Leno’s show at 10 might diminish the stature of Mr. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” at 11:35.”

    And, what will NBC do when another network figures out a way to successfully counterprogram against the show on certain nights? Letterman’s fears of doing the same kind of show at 10pm 15 years ago will be realized…they’ll merely pull Leno off of nights that he underperforms, and start reprogramming it with other fare. Leno won’t care, he’s already getting paid.

    But Conan and the “Tonight Show” franchise will suffer in the long run, because his too similar-styled show, will suffer in ratings @ 11:30. Why stay up after the news and watch the same stuff that was on before it? And forget Jimmy Fallon or Carson Daly.

    NBC is claiming this is a cost-effective move…but like most of their other bone-headed decisions, they will pay for it in other ways down the line.

  2. DAF says:

    Note also NBC made a shrewd move with Meet the Press. David Gregory is inexpensive- and they have him signed up to sub for Matt Lauer. (Maybe they think the Brokaw-Couric precedent there bodes well for creating a top flight brand for Gregory.)

    If they go on the cheap for Washington Bureau Chief, NBC news cuts a lot of costs. The late Tim Russert had a big deal from GE- not to be maudlin, but that was probably covered by insurance.

    With all of the pressure in that division, this probably saved headcount.

    Though wouldn’t Andrea Mitchell really have had the right experience, network, etc. to do that job? Hey, I just watch the news, I don’t make it.

  3. Gary says:

    I’m not sure I agree with Brian Stelter’s assessment that Leno’s show will be DVR-proof.

  4. Geoff Fox says:

    Stelter’s comment is based on the show being “day of” topical. So, it makes no sense to hoard them.

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