NBC, Affils Talk Leno

Dec 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC affiliates, which have seen their late local news lead-ins shrink along with the network’s prime-time performance, are going to work to make “The Jay Leno Show” as 10 o’clock-friendly as possible in order to improve the odds that the programming gamble pays off.
A working group of affiliate representatives will be formed to meet with the network on issues ranging from how best to promote the new show to how to disperse the advertising units, which will be reduced from 12 minutes in “The Tonight Show” to the prime-time norm of nine minutes in the new show. Also discussed will be the possibility of windows within the show for stations to promote their late local news, which is very important to their bottom lines, or a seamless transition to the newscasts.
“We raised lots of possible ideas,” Michael Fiorile, president and chief operating officer of the Dispatch Printing Co. and the president and chairman of the NBC affiliates board, said after a meeting of the affiliates board with NBC division heads and NBC Universal President-CEO Jeff Zucker last week.
Mr. Zucker caught the stations—and, indeed, the media world at large—off guard earlier in the week with the announcement that Mr. Leno would not be leaving the network after Conan O’Brien takes over “The Tonight Show” on June 1, but instead would host a program featuring many of his signature bits at 10 p.m. weeknights. The new Leno show is expected to launch just before the start of the 2009-10 network season.
Affiliates were uniformly pleased that their network and stations will not have to compete with Mr. Leno on another network, which had seemed likely to be ABC.
Confidence about the unprecedented attempt to not just transplant a late-night personality, even one extremely popular with the affiliates, but also to strip him across weeknights in a crucial but eroding hour had not yet had a chance to gel last week; too much was still unknown.
Some affiliates wondered whether “The Jay Leno Show” will draw mostly core fans, rather than the broader, more varied group of viewers that even underperforming shows can muster up when there’s a different one every night.
They also wondered if advertiser interest will be similarly affected by dint of it being essentially the same show each night. Already executives at other networks are licking their chops in the expectation that the Leno move will mean more advertiser inventory for them to sell at upfront time next spring, not to mention giving their 10 p.m. scripted shows a big boost or time to build from a slow start.
Some were optimistic that the roll of new dice offers a smaller hole to try to fill with hits—and is preferable to continuing to play at the same high-stakes table that has cooled.
The most extreme reaction held that the Leno move is a bold but low-cost move that, if it doesn’t work, will allow NBC to say that it tried honorably to salvage the hour for the network, then turn it over to local stations—which would surely move their news to 10 p.m. to compete with the Fox and CW affiliates that prosper with earlier late newscasts.
Mr. Fiorile and NBC TV Network and Media Works President John Eck quickly dismissed that theory as “interesting” but utterly without basis or merit.
“Our only option is to work jointly to make it work,” Mr. Eck said.
“Everybody left here feeling pretty good,” Mr. Fiorile said.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)