In Depth

NBC Affiliates Get Reassurance About ‘Leno’

Affiliate jitters regarding “The Jay Leno Show” appeared to have subsided as NBC-affiliated station heads arrived in New York City yesterday for their annual meeting.

Michael Fiorile, NBC affiliate board chairman and vice chairman of the dispatch group said the membership was confident regarding “Leno.”

Mr. Fiorile said the NBC affiliates conducted its own outside research regarding “Leno,” and that report showed a potential positive audience flow from the 10 p.m. show into the local affiliates’ 11 p.m. news.

Based on that research, the affiliates asked NBC for opportunities to tease the 11 p.m. news during “Leno.” Mr. Fiorile said the network is allowing affiliates three opportunities during “Leno” to promote their respective 11 p.m. news programs.

“It was a bold move by the network,” Mr. Fiorile said, “but it’s obvious that a lot of study and a lot of work went into the planning.”

“The principle Jay Leno audience is going to be a late news audience,” he said.
John Eck, president, NBC Television Network & Media Works, said attendance was around 155 members across the NBC station spectrum, up around 20% over last year.

Mr. Eck said a majority of the meeting was about the game plan and advertising setup for “Leno,” which also included a meet and greet with Mr. Leno and the NBC affiliate board. The rest of the discussion focused on NBC’s recommitment to its affiliates, fueled by opening comments from NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker.

“Let me be as clear as I can be,” he said. “We are not abandoning the business of broadcast network television. We are not going direct to cable. We are renewing affiliation agreements. And we are going to be in business together for a long, long time.”

Mr. Eck said NBC was hoping to establish new relationships with affiliates under bronze, silver and gold banners.

Bronze affiliates would simply broadcast NBC material under the terms of an affiliation agreement, while silver and gold affiliates would work with NBC to find new ways to promote and disseminate NBC programming, be it through new media or deals with local telecommunications providers.

Aside from “Leno,” Mr. Fiorile said affiliates are also looking forward to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, arriving on the back of one of the most-watched events in television history, the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

(Editor: Baumann)