NBC Will Enter Thursday Night Fray Again

At NBC, no one said "give up" on 9 p.m. time periods.

Following up on NBC's somewhat quasi-decision to back off of big budgeted 8 p.m. time slots, it plans to go back into battle in the mother of all prime-time slots--Thursdays at 9 p.m.

After eschewing a proposal for a four-comedy block before the start of the season, NBC is now back in the thick of it, bringing on steady performer "Scrubs" at  9 p.m. and "30 Rock" at 9:30 p.m. "My Name is Earl" and "The Office" will stay in place at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m,. respectively.

"30 Rock" had been suffering on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. paired with "Twenty Good Years." NBC will give that old guys' comedy, "Years," a good rest --pulling it from the schedule in November.

The move has the feeling of a "why not?"  "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" are in that big drama fight at 9 p.m. NBC figures quicker comedies might give the others a little ding. This year ABC has been dinging CBS with its move of "Grey's Anatomy" to that time period, usurping the long, powerful run of CBS' "CSI." 



The key factor--as always--is the prospect of improved advertising sales. Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, told Daily Variety the move is a "a good sales play for us."

NBC can probably offer some better deals for advertisers--especially movie studios looking for a more workable media plan in selling winter theatrical comedies.  Tv's scripted comedies--perhaps at a discount to the ABC and CBS dramas--could do the trick.

The two comedies will be replacing NBC's "Deal or No Deal." That too could be a factor in the network's decision--the game show might not necessarily be the right environment for movie studios to play in.

Admittedly, NBC isn't looking to take the world by storm--nor the "Must See" mantle that has moved over to ABC and CBS. "We're not going to end up being the No. 1 network on the night right away," said the always upbeat Reilly.

NBC is anywhere from 4 to 6 ratings point behind in the 18-49 viewers at 9 p.m. on Thursday. Reilly's right--it sure won't be on top right away.

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