Friday, December 12, 2008
A couple of days ago, I mentioned how I thought that NBC's decision to keep Jay Leno by moving him to a weeknight 10pm slot would be a colossal failure. Strangely, even though I made that comment as a means of setting up a piece which claimed that television programming these days is all about money -- providing cheap programming to create the highest possible profit margin -- I neglected to really consider the ramifications of NBC's admittedly clever move. Bottom line: despite my knowledge of the way TV really works, I'd desperately like to hold on to the (now utterly outdated) notion that network programmers look for the best shows that will draw big ratings -- that a quality line-up is the best way to ensure success.
That's just not the case anymore, as my theory on the former ubiquity of Dateline NBC attempted to prove.
The fact is that, from a strictly business standpoint, the Leno move is genius. It's an incredibly cheap show to produce and therefore will save NBC a fortune, even if it tanks in the ratings.
The Leno move also marks a somewhat dark milestone in network television: It represents a throwing in of the towel by NBC management -- a very public concession to the fact that the big four networks are in many ways dying on the vine -- and a final nail in the coffin of network TV programming as an art form rather than simply a means of making money. It isn't about winning anymore; it's about finding the sweet spot between cost and return. If network execs thought it would increase their profit margin, they'd try to get away with running color bars for 14 hours a day.
Oh, and incidentally -- if you want to know who's really going to suffer when Leno is moved to weeknights at 10pm, ask any news director at any NBC affiliate nationwide.
This decision just effectively killed NBC's late local newscasts.
Thanks to Lee Stranahan for slapping me in the face with reality:
The Huffington Post: "Five Reasons NBC's Leno Move is Brilliant" by Lee Stranahan/12.11.08