Commentary

Maybe NBC Needs To Offer Incentive For 10 P.M. Switch

New research suggests NBC may be right -- and wrong -- about its programming decision to run Jay Leno every weeknight at 10 p.m. Maybe it needs to tinker a bit with its plans.

TiVo research says that at 10 p.m. many viewers are either watching DVR-ed programs, or "abandoning that hour of television altogether."

For its part, NBC believes Jay Leno at 10 p.m. could change some of this thinking -- that his show will be kind of DVR-proof, because his talk show, like its 11:30 p.m. version, will offer daily topical comedy and entertainment.

But what if viewers' outlook about late-night TV is changing quicker than we realize? Maybe they want something else -- not Leno, "CSI" or even local news. Maybe it's all about reading, the Internet or gaming.

For years, late-night TV hosts complained that their major competition wasn't other TV shows, but the heavy eyes of viewers who needed to head off into dreamland.

NBC's affiliate in Boston, WHDH-TV, may have the right idea -- even if legally it doesn't stand a chance, according to its network-affiliate deal.  

WHDH-TV wants to put in a new 10 p.m. newscast instead of Leno. Local TV new at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. in Central and Mountain time zones) would surely see a ratings rise, versus the ever-declining later news show ratings of many TV stations.

In the near future, the station would gain whatever is left of local TV advertising dollars if it went to a 10 p.m. local newscast, as all prime-time advertising inventory would be theirs to sell -- not just the few local avails that the network offers.

NBC has strong affiliate agreements. But one wonders if it wouldn't curry more favor -- for the long term  -- in its ambitious Leno attempt by offering up, say, a minute of more advertising time to stations per hour.

To be fair, NBC isn't just programming 10 p.m. in the usual way. It is taking away scripted programming fare, which draws in different advertiser types than those that buy Monday to Friday strip talk shows.

Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, says no one thinks less of Fox because they run less programming than the other networks -- two hours of prime time from Monday through Saturday, three on Sunday.

No one will think less of NBC, either. But maybe its strategists should have thought harder when they decided to try to change the network business overall

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2 comments about "Maybe NBC Needs To Offer Incentive For 10 P.M. Switch".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, April 10, 2009 at 3:45 p.m.

    So, Hoyt, a rehash of the 6 at 10 is better than a rehash of the 6 at 11? Still a rehash.

    Jay Leno's show will likely become more attractive to political guests, who already choose his show to announce their candidacies. There might even be more humor news in his talk show than the Daily Show. Indeed, why stay up until 11 for fresh political humor when you can catch it at 10?

    If you recall that most of the top 5 shows each week are unscripted, Leno at 10 seems a good call by NBC. Many of those who oppose it might be those who prefer Letterman's smart-aleck brand of humor (and his head-to-head ratings have long trailed Leno's).

  2. Roy Moskowitz from Reciprocal Results, April 11, 2009 at 10:44 p.m.

    Unlike Zucker, I have always thought less of Fox because they don't program 10 PM and occasionally still joke that they aren't a "real network" because they don't program all 3 prime time hours.

    Before the current scheduling paradigm shift that NBC and Zucker are leading, which means the eventual abandonment of scripted programming at that hour by all broadcast networks, I felt that shows like "24" would have been more successful at 10 PM. Fox could have also re-purposed some of its edgy FX shows at 10 PM as a low cost programming solution.

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