Commentary

Marketing Jay At 10 P.M.: Tell Viewers To Save DVR Playback For Weekend

Jay Leno's move to 10 p.m. has opened up many questions -- about advertisers, scripted TV writers, and programming scheduling. But what about NBC's marketing to the viewer?

TV viewers are a savvy lot -- and no doubt have already formed a few opinions. TV news stories about Leno's move to prime time are in abundance, including his own version of the news on "The Tonight Show."

The first marketing factor for the transition should be: Don't alienate loyal Jay viewers. The second: Plan to get some new viewers. Starting now, the network will be closely following viewer reaction, blogs, and Internet buzz. NBC will also have nine months to play around with it.

The "early" Jay is a tricky scenario. Should NBC send out the message that "an earlier Jay will mean more sleep tonight"?  That may not be too helpful for Conan O'Brien, who comes on later, taking Leno's spot as host of "The Tonight Show."

We are told "The Jay Leno Show" will look different from "Tonight," though there will be guests, a monologue, and sketches. NBC is going to have to dig to find new nuggets to draw in new watchers. Touting "Jay Walking" segment might not be enough.

NBC executives are anticipating that even if the new show equals "Tonight"'s current ratings --  at a 1.7 number among 18-49 viewers -- that would be enough to break even. But that's seemingly less than NBC gets in prime time right now.

This brings up another big-picture marketing question: If Leno is getting less-than-prime-time ratings now, how will this affect the promotion of NBC's other prime-time shows? NBC's marketing efforts will  become that much harder for existing shows or to help launch new shows, something we all know NBC desperately needs.

Perhaps the easiest messaging might have to do with what consumers already do during the 10 p.m. hour on weekdays -- watch other TV shows on a time-shifted basis.

A new marketing line might be, right at 9:59 p.m.: "Wait. Don't touch your DVR or that 'CSI' menu. Jay is fresh and new. Right now."

5 comments about "Marketing Jay At 10 P.M.: Tell Viewers To Save DVR Playback For Weekend".
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  1. Steven Cohn from Media Industry Newsletter, December 12, 2008 at 11:42 a.m.

    One nugget not discussed is Leno doing the prime-time show live in the Eastern/Central time zones, which would give it spontaneity.

    That helps Saturday Night Live immensely, and if the SNL cast can stay up until 11:30 p.m. (Eastern), Leno can stay up until 7 p.m. (Pacific).

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 12, 2008 at 11:44 a.m.

    Good point. Why watch a scripted show live when you can watch it later? Why not watch a day-and-date, live-on-tape chat show with timely humor? How many more dead/dying bodies can we look at, anyway?

    I think Leno and Conan have different audiences. Conan is liked by the young crowd, although Craig Ferguson is making in-roads. Leno appeals to boomers and blue-collars. Letterman appeals to people who like smart-ass humor punctuated by annoying bits and super-cloying Paul Schaefer. I think Conan do very well and protect the franchise.

    Negotiating who (Leno or Conan) gets which guest shouldn't be a problem: Ben Stiller appears on Conan and Tom Cruise goes on Leno, etc., based on demo appeal. I think women like Leno better.

    It's an odd idea, having primetime Jay, not tried since the days of primetime Merv, but it might work. And it's cheaper per night than a $3M scripted show, with far fewer reruns because Jay is a workaholic. Moonves is hanging crepe, but we'll see....

  3. Marcia Chocinsky from Fahlgren Advertising, December 12, 2008 at 12:13 p.m.

    When you were asking rating questions, you didn't ask what the local affiliates might be thinking about this . . . the 10p show's ratings lead-in to a local newscast can be important. So while this may produce a 10p hour that is more lucrative for the network, it may impact the local stations news ratings/pricing, which could then also impact Conan's ratings at 10:30p. Obviously, this is less important now than it would have been years since people are more program driven than network driven, but it could still have some impact nonetheless depending on the ratings.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 12, 2008 at 3:12 p.m.

    Amongst the Leno Leaners who will Tivo/DVR to watch the first 20 minutes later during Conan or Letterman the local late news may be the casualty swept under the NBC flying carpet that will be the "fall" guys.

  5. Marla Goldstein from Around The Bend Media, December 12, 2008 at 10:46 p.m.

    One of the biggest advantages that the NBC affiliates will have in this new set up is 46 weeks of original programming leading into their late news. 46 weeks. ABC/CBS will have what? 30 at best, allowing for specials and the like. Even allowing for higher-rated programming on the competition, that's a big advantage to NBC's affiliate body.

    NBC is actively seeking out the affiliates' input w/r/t the format of the show to avoid the precipitous drop-off that normally occurs at the half-hour mark. And possibly to avoid a scenario that I've seen which is pre-emption of Leno for syndicated drama, then local late news, Leno on delay at 11:35, followed by Conan on delay at 12:35, and so on.

    And yeah, Moonves is a crepe-hanger. It's what he does best. Except when it comes to his yearly performance in Carnegie Hall.

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