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Editorial: ‘Leno’ Move a Good One

Dec 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Cheers to NBC for shaking up the business last week.
Under the leadership of Jeff Zucker, NBC announced the stripping of a new talk/variety show with Jay Leno at the 10 p.m. hour, starting next fall.
The reaction from many in the business is that it’s either going to succeed brilliantly or fail miserably. Some then snidely add that it’s a decision made in desperation.
Our reaction to the naysayers: “And your point is?”
Speak to any very successful business person and more likely than not they will tell you the value of being able to try something new and different and fail.
In fact, those in the TV business—even those most successful—fail all the time. The percentage of failure for TV shows put on-air by networks and syndicators is very high. Even the most storied of TV programmers, NBC’s Brandon Tartikoff, back in fall 1983 introduced eight shows, led by “Manimal,” all of which failed.
What has been clear for quite some time is that traditional network TV isn’t working the way it used to work. The prime-time audience watching the networks has been eroding for years. It’s gotten more and more difficult to launch blockbuster shows, let alone at 10 p.m.
And as groundbreaking as the idea of Leno at 10 p.m. Monday-Friday is, the truth is that talk shows have succeeded stripped during prime time. Probably the most successful was the syndicated talk show Merv Griffin did for Metromedia, which ran for years in prime time on at least two of Metromedia’s stations, WNEW (now WNYW) in New York and KTTV in Los Angeles.
Dick Cavett’s long-running talkfest was a prime-time staple of the 1969 summer season, and back in the early 1960s the father of late-night himself, Steve Allen, who was the first host of “The Tonight Show,” had a syndicated weeknight talk/variety show.
Will the concept work in 2009? We’re about to find out. But in an era when TV needs more and more creative approaches to its business, we applaud NBC’s move.
Futures Shock
Another new approach to business caught our eye last week. There were various news accounts of a new futures market proposed by the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald. If approved by federal regulators, Cantor will introduce futures contracts based on movies’ box office receipts.
Here’s how it would work, according to the New York Post: If most investors think the next big blockbuster will make $50 million in its first four weeks of theatrical release, contracts for the film would be $50. But if you think the blockbuster will bomb and make less than $50 million, you’d sell the contract at $50 and be paid if it made less. And conversely if it made more.
Can you imagine if such a futures market could be tied to the success of TV shows? What fun! What madness! Well, Cantor?

One Comment

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