Monday, October 19, 2009

Jay Leno: Is he killing local news?

The Los Angeles Times reports today that NBC affiliates have been suffering lower ratings since "The Jay Leno Show" took over the 10 PM time slot. One example given: WBAL in Baltimore, which has traditionally battled for late news supremacy with WJZ, "has been shellacked in the ratings" this fall.

"Leno's new show averaged about 5.6 million viewers through the first four days of last week, less than half the audience it attracted when it premiered and more than a third less than the audience that NBC drew last season with its longtime schedule of drama shows," writes the Times' Joe Flint. "The network says the declines are in line with expectations and cautions patience as viewers discover the new time slot for the talk show king."

Flint also quotes GE Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin, who claims that "Leno," as well as Conan O'Brien's "Tonight," are "exceeding our ratings estimates... we are happy with the 10 o'clock and late-night performance." Considering that Conan's ratings in the coveted™ 18-49 demographic are actually lower than Jay's, as Talk Show News reported last week, that seems disingenuous at best. If everyone at NBC is 100% delighted with Leno and O'Brien's ratings, I'll eat a peacock.

Do the local stations have any options if they're unhappy with Leno's lead-in? Boston affiliate WHDH, which wanted to bump Leno in favor of a 10 PM local newscast, found that NBC was willing to play hardball -- the network threatened to strip the channel's affiliation, and WHDH quickly fell into line. However, if there's a mass mutiny, NBC might have to come up with some new ideas. One floated in the Times article: run Leno from 10:30-11:30, giving the affiliates the opportunity to do their late news at 10 PM. Many FOX stations already broadcast the local news at 10, since that net only programs between 8-10. "But that seems a long shot because many stations would be reluctant to play with their bulwark 11 p.m. newscasts," writes Flint. "Another unlikely possibility is the network could move Leno to 8 p.m."


  1. Anonymous said...

    I can see the new billboards now: "Comedy at 10. Er, 10:30. Er, 8pm..."

    - Octobrain

  2. Anonymous said...

    Ouch, seems Leno is slowly gearing up for a major FAIL in the near future as I see it.

    It would be interesting to see NBC cave in to the demands of a rioting, massive group of affiliates, but I doubt they could all get together and arrange something that big.