NBC has paved the way. Its nearly $800 million in cutbacks brings up some major alterations, such as the condensing of its news operations. But that could be just the start. Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal Television Group, says there is a problem with 8 p.m., which really can't make money the traditional way anymore.
The real revolution was in what was hinted--that NBC or some other network might give back the 8 p.m. hour to the TV stations.
It wasn't that long ago that some networks flirted with the idea of giving back Friday night to stations because of low viewership and advertising dollars. Of course, there was a worse night--Saturdays, where networks have thrown up their collective arms and now run reruns or low-cost programming.
So in future, broadcast networks --say, in seven to 10 years from now--might only broadcast Sunday through Thursday, 9-11 p.m. This could give newer networks The CW and MyNetworkTV a chance to break out on their own, running shows from 8-10 p.m.
This doesn't sound too far-fetched. Typically one-third of any network's prime-time schedule loses money. Why not cut the fat--especially now in this rocketing growth world of digital TV alternatives?
NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright's contention is that while NBC will expect more in revenues from digital platforms, NBC can't afford to fund distribution in both the digital world and the traditional TV world.
Something has to give.
The giving up of time periods has been talked about for years. But, in reality, few networks would give up any valuable shelf space. But then again no one would believe that just about a year ago, just before ABC first made a deal with iTunes Music Store, that networks would let its viewers watch an entire TV episode on their computers,
Now, a year later, NBC looks to shift the big gears of traditional TV one more time.