Leno winners

There is a considerable talk about an apparently about-to-be-announced deal to give Jay Leno a Tonight-like show five days a week, 10 to 11 on NBC. This move would have some obvious losers, such as anyone who is making primetime drama for NBC, and Conan (who instead of taking over the big show, will now appear to be merely keeping the second-fiddle seat.) But it does have a lot of winners:

  • Jay, obviously, who gets to keep doing what he likes (and it seems to me that he’s a guy who does what he likes and likes what he does), makes a lot of money, gains support and exposure beyond even the vast resources which were already behind him.
  • NBC. This is cheap, brand-name fare. It may not up their overall 10 PM ratings, but it should keep a good chunk of them while decreasing the overall price.
  • The major cable networks. The challenge has always been to find places to put their cable original dramas at a time when people were watching in general but where the networks weren’t putting in tough competition. This is lovely for them; it opens up an audience at 10 PM on weeknights. (Sure, it costs them some in the rerun season where some of them were targeting, but it seems to me that that is less of a factor.) So expect to see Leverage, Army Wives, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and all that sort of thing staking out their 10 PM slots and getting their audience from that.
  • Stephen Colbert. There will be some people who, having just watched Jay before the news, aren’t going to want to watch the official Tonight Show or Letterman’s pseudo-Tonight right after (not everyone, mind you, or there wouldn’t be an audience for Conan and Kimmel today.) While The Colbert Report is not of a completely different category from those shows, it’s of sufficiently different texture that it should make a good post-news change of pace
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Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 1:28 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. It’s going to reduce NBC’s expenses, the talk show is far cheaper to produce than a drama, but it’s also going to reduce their revenue.

    Seen many DVD sets of talk show seasons for sale? Post-broadcast revenue is making up growing revenue stream which I just don’t see them getting from Leno’s program.

    Prediction is dangerous, but I see this eventually going the same way as the 5-nights-a-week Millionaire game show did. Yeah, it was cheaper to produce but rapidly got over saturated.

  2. Yes, but NBC wasn’t exactly having much luck generating shows that lasted long enough for a DVD set in the 10 PM hour anyhow. And talky shows do relatively well in generating short-term interest in streaming usage.

    In general, when money is tight, companies are apt to shy away from long-term investments, which is what aiming for the DVD and (even more so) the syndication market does. However, this might actually be really good news for the sitcom fan. Why? Because the desire not to be risking their own money may well open the studios up for working with outside production companies on work the studios don’t own. Let the network get back into being a broadcaster rather than risking its money on the content.

    And what sort of material are outside producers most likely to want to fund? Sitcoms. They rerun well. And right now, the syndication market is facing a shortage of viable sitcoms. The networks haven’t been supporting the first runs that make the reruns possible. Shows with middling and even repeatedly-dancing-with-cancellation ratings like How I Met Your Mother are getting syndicated for huge bucks.

    (This is all really an outsider’s view, of course. I hope time proves me right.)


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