Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jay Leno: Will advertisers respond to NBC's gamble?

The New York Times reports that the Discovery package of networks (Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and Travel Channel) is selling advertisers "what could be called a 'Leno replacement package'" -- in other words, commercial time on all four channels that would grab a larger total number of viewers than Jay Leno will be able to get for NBC when his 10 PM show debuts this fall:

"A further loss of audience is expected when Jay Leno moves to the 10 p.m. time slot this fall," said Joe Abruzzese, the president of ad sales for Discovery.
With lucrative automotive and retail advertising diminishing due to the recession, this week's upfronts -- when the networks promote their fall schedules to advertisers -- are being closely watched, and NBC's decision to give the 10 PM time slot to Leno is dominating NBC's presentation. This article in Monday's Times called Leno's move to prime time "the biggest gamble of this -- or any recent -- upfront market," but at least one ad agency executive quoted in the piece was bullish on Jay:
Steven J. Farella, president and chief executive at [media strategies firm] TargetCast TCM, said the prospect of Mr. Leno at 10 p.m. was welcome.

"Think about the alternative: another crime drama, another hospital drama," Mr. Farella said. "We like things that are different, so we can sit in front of clients and say, 'Let me tell you what I'm doing differently this year than last year.'"

Mr. Farella said he also liked NBC's promise that Mr. Leno's show would be "advertiser-friendly," offering sponsors opportunities like commercials delivered by Mr. Leno and the inclusion of brands in skits.

NBC president of research Alan Wurtzel pointed out that no conventional series introduced at 10 PM since the 2003-4 season has approached true hit status in the ratings. However, CBS is considering moving 9 PM hits like "The Mentalist" to 10 in order to compete with Jay.