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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Leno Loses in Primetime

    For months now, the chronically unfunny (in my opinion) Jay Leno has hosted The Jay Leno Show five nights a week on NBC.  What is unusual about this late night talk show is that it airs in primetime.  NBC decided this year to give up ten o'clock five nights a week as a 'bold experiment', and it has failed big time.  Not for NBC, the network insists, as Leno is performing as expected.  Plus it costs them very little to make his show, versus five other, bigger budget programs.  The problem is the affiliates.

     NBC doesn't own most of the local NBC stations.  Affiliates began complaining that Leno was losing them viewers for their eleven o'clock newscasts.  This is very bad because advertisers pay top dollar to run spots during the news, and lower ratings mean less money.  The local affiliates count on that money to stay afloat.  Some threatened to pull Leno off the air, even before the show premiered, and in return NBC threatened to stop allowing them to air any NBC shows.  Things seemed to have settled once Leno began airing in the fall, but when November sweeps came back, the unrest returned.  NBC has backed down and agreed that on February 12th Leno will be leaving ten o'clock.

     The problem posed is that Leno still works for NBC and they have no desire to get rid of him.  However, Conan O'Brien is under contract to host The Tonight Show, and Leno cannot take it back.  Currently, NBC would like to air a shortened Leno from 11:35-12:05, bump The Tonight Show back to 12:05-1:05, and by extension, move Late Night With Jimmy Fallon back to begin at 2:05.  This would leave Last Call With Carson Daly out, as two a.m. belongs to the affiliates, though NBC has pledged to keep him at the network.  Currently, none of this moving around is finalized, other than Leno leaving primetime, but all involved parties are in talks to make it happen.

     So what would air at ten p.m.?  Suddenly NBC has five more hours to fill.  Top on the list are new episodes of Friday Night Lights, which has aired on satellite already, but NBC is allowed to begin airing as of March 1st, and had planned on bringing back soon anyway.  Also likely is the USA-aired Law & Order: Criminal Intent, an expanded Dateline, and another reality show or two.  Nothing is set in stone, and NBC could end up airing other shows from it's networks, including Bravo, USA, or even SyFy.

     What exactly will happen remains to be seen, but NBC is hoping it will all be worked out by February 12th.  This could shape up to be one heck of a battle, or a huge disappointment.

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