Friday, December 12, 2008

Peacock Block

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 Bottom line: despite my knowledge of the way TV really works, I'd desperately like to hold on to the (now utterly outdated) notion that network programmers look for the best shows that will draw big ratings -- that a quality line-up is the best way to ensure success.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


Anonymous said...


Seriously, 'prime time' tv is a joke. The shows suck and are the same cliched plot lines, just set in a different story world, each season.

Reality shows are scraping the barrel but still they continue to force on us as they are cheap to make.

Local news is beyond dreadful. They use the cheapest tactics to try and keep u watching ("Coming up after the break, why water in some local schools will kill your child" which of course they show 30mins later and talks about some dumb ass who ran his own sewage line into his drinking line.)

Jay Leno et al are funny, but really are just mind numbing after a little. They take little thought to make and even less thought to consume.

The internet is killing TV and its a good thing, as it gets people off the couch, gets people thinking again and exposes them to a world of different and interesting things.

The race for the bottom results in just that, the bottom.

So yeah, fuck em.

Anonymous said...

I think that as long as NBC does the news at 9 P.M. or 9:30 P.M. or whatever they should be fine.

I think it's refreshing that they're pulling away from doing the same old "News at 10" crap. I stopped watching TV because it was the same shit over and over again.

Who says the late show needs to be at 11 or midnight anyway? 10 is perfectly late enough to hear about funny stuff that happened during the day.

Of course, I'm sure the move makes economic sense, but that's not why I think the move is okay. It shows that NBC isn't against changing if they need to.

I still wish all these stations reported news I actually cared about. I'm sick and tired of hearing about ANOTHER murder or robbery that doesn't really matter. I'm interested in the stuff I read online because if it doesn't matter, it just doesn't get read online. That can't happen within the constraints of the traditional television medium.

Jeni said...

Reason Six: There are quite a lot of people (i.e. pretty much every at my job) that have to get up very early to go to work. This means they go to bed early. Therefore, no late night shows are viewed at all. I've never watched a late night show and it's pretty much because of the time. If Leno is on at 10pm, that would probably be the one I'd watch, just because of the time. Of course I don't really like him, so I won't, but if I did....

Heywood J. said...

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.

That would be about as entertaining than the infomercials they run all weekend, even during football season. Doesn't that Billy Mays guy have an indoor voice?