Commentary

NBC Stations: Waiting To Ride Out The Leno Storm

A late-moving TV storm might be brewing from NBC affiliates. NBC stations' late local news programs were expecting the worst -- which was delivered as promised so far.

 

With "The Jay Leno Show" now at 10 p.m., NBC stations have gone south. Big market stations like KNBC Los Angeles and WMAQ Chicago are down double digit percentages in the key 25-54 news viewers.

So what? Who really wants to be told they are right? But as business consultant Tom Peters might say, recognizing one's mistakes is only the first step: "Now, what are you going to do about it?"

To buffer the expected wave of dissent, NBC looked to limit the blow by giving some extra commercial time for stations to sell. But in sucky advertising markets, getting more low-rent inventory isn't exactly a plus.

New executives at the top -- Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment -- might change some of this. If not a major overall, perhaps they could at least look for an alteration, maybe after the February sweeps once NBC is through its Vancouver Winter Olympics programming.

To be fair, NBC has delivered as promised so far. "Leno" is earning around 1.5 to 1.7 ratings among key adult 18-49 viewers, with few DVR-ing. But this is little solace. The end result remains the same: NBC limits its downside, but also limits its upside.

Possible new majority owner Comcast Corp. might like this financial scenario, for future considerations. Turn NBC into a cable network -- one with a dual revenue stream? That's something a cable company can love.

But NBC isn't ready to part with the traditional NBC affiliates -- not when local TV outlets still  provide all that local on-the-ground promotion.

Maybe some NBC affiliates will take up the baton of that rebel NBC affiliate in the Boston area, WHDH-TV -- this time en masse. Upon hearing the initial news of Leno's move to 10 p.m., that Boston NBC station wanted to do its own bit of time shifting for Leno's show -- into a weaker time period.

At some point, NBC stations might say, "What do we have to lose?" Then NBC network chiefs might at least think about some cheaper-than-drama programming -- "Dateline NBC's" at 10 p.m. perhaps -- to tie in better with local TV news shows.

I can hear the rain on the windows right now.

5 comments about "NBC Stations: Waiting To Ride Out The Leno Storm".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., October 29, 2009 at 2:18 p.m.

    Broadcast in decline? Shocking. Leno not even delivering a 2? Again, shocking. Oh, for the audience numbers of yore. Broadcast didn't feel threatened by cable - now cable will end up owning broadcast. Who's going to buy the newspapers - that's what I want to know. Song of the day (to accompany that rain on the windows) "Money Changes Everything" by the Brains (from the 80s - more revelant now).

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 29, 2009 at 3:06 p.m.

    We take note that you failed to mention WDIV in Detroit, where Jay is doing fine. I guess it didn't fit your template.

    http://detnews.com/article/20091021/OPINION03/910210310/WDIV-newscasts-defy-Leno-factor

  3. Christina Ricucci from Millenia 3 Communications, October 29, 2009 at 6:03 p.m.

    Personally I like news to be the communication of information I didn't already know. Anyone remotely knowledgeable about television & ratings could have put their next year's paycheck on the inevitability that local late news would take a huge hit in this situation. Who can even stay awake for late news anymore with an hour-long sedative as a lead-in? Nobody is surprised, and anybody working at an NBC affiliate should have started job hunting when the Leno move to 10pm was announced. <Yawn>

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 29, 2009 at 6:04 p.m.

    Detroit was always a unique market from what I remember. The only one which could raise a 2 HH after mid-night (heavy shift workers). Now, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and you can't give away your house, somehow NBC might not be so concerned about touting Leno's ratings. Regardless of how entertaining Leno is, cutting off your nose to spite your face may not be the ideal way to play it.

  5. Georgia Scott from The Agency/ECN, November 2, 2009 at 1:06 p.m.

    Please define "Turn NBC into a cable network -- one with a dual revenue stream?"

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