Has NBC Gone Nuts? Part Two


Daytime Confidential’s Sean posted this news before I could do so, but I was so flabbergasted by this new bit of Bizarro-World business that I had to post a follow-up.

Hot on the heels of the news of NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker’s revelation that the network is considering reducing its broadcast schedule by hours per week or reducing days comes the eyebrow raising news via The New York Times and other outlets that Jay Leno is staying with the network after Conan O’Brien takes over The Tonight Show in 2009.

As Sean pointed out, Leno’s new show — which will look almost exactly like The Tonight Show — will air every week night at 10PM starting next fall. Seriously.

In order to figure out how this might impact Days of Our Lives, a bit of an examination of how NBC’s potential prime time schedule might be affected by this move could point us in a clearer direction of its intentions toward the soap. In all honesty, the following is speculation but it is based on what Zucker himself said about these issues just yesterday.

Now let me see if I have this right and I want someone to correct me if I am wrong. Zucker seems to think that America is so in love with Leno that they want to see him every night in prime time, leading into local news leading into Conan’s version of The Tonight Show leading into Jimmy Fallon’s version of Late Night. Somehow, this is supposed to be compatible with their consideration of cutting down broadcast hours or broadcast days.

The Times article points out that Leno’s show alone would reduce NBC’s need to fill broadcast time from 22 hours a week to 17, but keep in mind that is only if NBC keeps its current schedule intact. The article suggests that Leno’s show itself provides the reduction in broadcast hours Zucker might be seeking, but somehow I’m not convinced that is the case.  Remember, what Zucker said just yesterday?

"Can we continue to broadcast 22 hours in primetime? Three of our competitors don’t," Zucker said during Monday’s keynote at the annual UBS media conference. "Can we continue to broadcast seven days a week? One of our competitors don’t."

Something tells me Zucker really is moving full speed ahead with cutting down the actual number of hours NBC broadcasts as a network or he would not have confirmed the internal discussions about it, whether it fully comes to pass or not.

So how would this Leno prime time show look under a reduced broadcast schedule?

If NBC were to adopt the FOX/CW model of two hours of prime time, that means NBC would have a schedule of 6 hours of programming, excluding The Today Show and Meet the Press (which are cash cows), Sundays which are primarily dominated by football and Saturdays where the network only programs original episodes of Saturday Night Live. So a potential typical Monday-Friday week on NBC would look like this:

Heroes/Leno; Deal or No Deal/Leno; Law & Order SVU/Leno; Law & Order/Leno; My Name is Earl/Kath & Kim/The Office/30 Rock/Leno; Dateline/Leno.

Let’s say NBC were to adopt the CW model of four nights a week of programming. A potential schedule could consist of the following:

Heroes/Leno; Deal or No Deal/Leno; Law & Order/Leno; Law & Order SVU/Leno; My Name is Earl/Kath & Kim/The Office/30 Rock/Leno.

(The latter scenario begs an obvious question: if Leno’s new show is to air 5 nights a week per a contractual obligation, would Leno automatically inherit a Sunday 10PM slot if Friday were to go by the wayside?)

The NYT lays out in very good detail why Leno’s new show makes a lot of sense for the network from a financial perspective. But…

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21 Responses

  1. Profile photo of sonyab1974

    Now let me see if I have this right and I want someone to correct me if I am wrong. Zucker seems to think that America is so in love with Leno that they want to see him every night in prime time,
    Well I don’t know about anybody else but I love Leno. :)

  2. Profile photo of Chrystie-Delancey

    The article seems to miss the point that Jay Leno is immensely popular and NBC had dug themselves a hole by letting him go to a possible competitor. This way, they keep him. I am betting he has enough of an allure that people WILL tune in. And if Conan tanks, they can always insert Jay back into the Tonight Show.

    If you were so afraid of the future of daytime soaps on NBC, I would be more ticked off at the nonsensical syndicated programs that currently air.

    And the fact that you give Kath & Kim a mention as a possibility for next season is quite laughable. Have you seen the ratings?

    Also, your scenario only illustrates two hours of prime time. I understand the reducing it, but having Leno air at 10:00 PM, I don’t see how that takes anything away except space from a failed show, which we have had plenty of them this year. So does this mean to say that there will be only one hour of scripted/reality shows a night? That doesn’t make sense.

    I think you are getting a little too uptight about this. It doesn’t look like a bad idea to me. Besides, those barking about Leno’s price do not realize what a work horse this man is. I have been to several of his tapings and he doesn’t not merely show up before the show airs – he is there early in the morning to write his jokes and whatnot.

  3. Profile photo of dmfj

    They should save their money on The Today Show by staying home instead of flying everyone halfway around the world two or three times a year. That money could be used for a lot of things.

  4. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones


    You make valid points. I would counter that

    1. As popular as Leno is in late night, I am not convinced that a near replica of The Tonight Show is a good anchor in prime time.

    2. I’ve been quite vocal about the future of soap in many postings including but not limited to one earlier this week (which is far more positive than many soap commentators), consideration of which specifically takes into account NBC’s turning over large blocks of programming to the affiliates for court shows and other syndicated fare.

    3. I stated very clearly that the POTENTIAL schedules are examples of what an NBC prime time schedule might look like. Kath & Kim was not literal; one could easily swap in any shows in any comparable time slot.

    4. Of course, my scenarios only illustrated two hours of prime time because, again as clearly stated, it was speculation based on Zucker’s own quoted words. His quote compared three competitors in terms of 22 hours of programming and one competitor with a four day schedule. So both scenarios uses HIS comparisons to formulate what a potential NBC PRIME TIME schedule might look like. In addition. Saturdays, Sundays, and The Today Show were clearly excluded from the calculation. So, yes, one hour of scripted or reality programming per night DOES make sense based on what Zucker himself said coupled with the news of the Leno move to 10PM.

    5. Finally, I clearly stated that NBC’s current prime time schedule might remain intact, still allowing for 3 hours of prime time broadcast per night, 6 nights a week.

    The point remains the same: Zucker is actively looking at reducing broadcast hours for NBC or dramatically lowering costs. Given NBC’s oft-quoted desire to exit the soap business, the internal discussions about reducing broadcast hours and wholesale moves like this one with Leno make Days an even easier target than ever.

  5. Profile photo of Chrystie-Delancey

    Yeah, I just don’t buy two hours of original programming (scripted/reality). I could see them doing it from 8-10 and then Leno every night. I think he is that popular and has that great of a following that it would work. I guess it remains to be seen.

    I see it as a safe bet considering all the shows that are either bad or are good but not ratings magnets that end up canceled after just a few episodes. And who knows what this pilot season will offer? If I remember, Kath & Kim didn’t even get a pilot, they were just so enamored with the premise that it got ordered and I am sure they are regretting that decision. If the actors do not strike, it may be a better season.

    As for the future of DAYS, I work for the company that owns both DAYS and Y&R and I am sure they would just shop it to another network if NBC no longer wanted it. Soaps still have something that people are interested in. The other possibility would be to have them online since we do a ton of that these days. In any event, I am not worried.

  6. Profile photo of Beth

    My thinking is how is this going to save NBC money, because they are going to have to cough up an enormous salary for Leno just based on their shoddy dealings with him before. I suppose that in the long run it will still be cheaper than producing a show like Heroes, but putting all their eggs into this particular Faberge Egg basket seems a little excessive to me.

  7. Profile photo of Gracie09

    If NBC can’t figure out how to keep a show on the air that has continously aired for 43 years, WOW!!!!!!!!!!

    If they change the show enough so that it is marketable to a network like CW, that just means they don’t understand the genre. If I had a vote, it would be more like Lifetime, not CW.

    I’m a Days viewer that can’t take it anymore, just make your decision and get it over with. There is still enough of the show for me to watch, but if you slice and dice it, have fun, who knows what will happen?

    I just wanted to say a very special thank you to Days’ vets that KEEP me coming back!!!!

  8. Profile photo of KingTV

    I think putting Leno on 5 times a week is overkill and like “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and initially, “Deal Or No Deal,” the concept will wane and become repetitive being aired that much. I am not a fan of Leno. I think his is not funny at all, never makes me laugh and has a very vanilla, middle of the road, Midwest sense of humor. I prefer my humor much more wicked and snarky a la Letterman, who actually makes me laugh and not just clap in agreement like so many of Leno’s flat jokes. But, Leno is hugely popular and has kept “The Tonight Show” at the top of the late-night heap for years so I think NBC thinks they are making a smart, inexpensive decision that certainly fits in with Zucker’s new prime time philosophy. I also think, though, that NBC will have a very tough time repackaging this type of show for further profit. DVD’s, ITunes, streaming possibilities is going to be a tough sell for a nightly, topical show, especially DVD exposure. Who would buy a season of a show that thrives on the news of the day and moves on? Why would one DVR it if they can just see it again the next night? There is no story to follow or a story or characters to care about. Besides, think of all the talented writers, actors and crew members that will be losing out on job possibilities. And if Leno is available at 10PM, who will stay up to watch Conan, doing essentially the same thing a half an hour later? If anything, Conan is getting royally screwed. This just shows me that NBC is in a very desperate position, being #4th at the end of the year ratings tally behind Fox, CBS and ABC, and having started a miserable failure of a fall season. They are obviously throwing crap at the wall, and seeing what sticks. Obviously, the entire television industry is undergoing some major changes and needs a rejuvenation of sorts. For TV fans like myself, it is a sad day indeed when 5 potential hours of scripted, intelligent, good dramas are being replaced by an unfunny comic’s musings on the events of the day. If I want the news delivered in a funny way, I watch “The Daily Show.” I feel like this is the beginning of the end of netwrok television as we know it and NBC and Jay Leno are leading the charge.

  9. Profile photo of Luke Kerr
    Luke Kerr

    Leno is the king of late night but it only takes 4-6 million viewers to be the king of late night. How in the world is Leno going to compete with heavy hitters in that time slot such as CSI Miami and Criminal Minds or even shows with double the primetime audience such as Private Practice? And what time slot is LOST going to appear in?

    Unless it is NBC’s goal to do with Leno what FOX does with their local news and Leno won’t count as primetime ratings I don’t see how his show could even survive considering they are paying Leno 40-50 million for the show.

    I agree King TV. This is the beginning of the end of network TV, at least for NBC. ABC, CBS and FOX all have shows that pull in over 20 million viewers so they’ll be able to hang on for five more years before they have to worry about NBC’s problems. NBC on the other hand is well on its way to becoming The CW.

  10. Profile photo of season1217

    This is not the first time in the history of television that a network television channel has been in trouble and it sure won’t be the last but is this the best they can think of? Are they trying to boost ratings or just save cost? Those are my main issues with this decision. With all due respect to Leno, his work ethic and his popularity I’m not really sure if this is the way to go.

    Wasn’t it The Cosby Show that saved NBC and the whole genre of sitcoms in the 80’s? Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy did it for ABC which was in the dumps a few years ago. Actual prime time television.

    Wouldn’t it hurt to see Leno almost everyday of the week in prime time. Remember Who wants to be a Millionaire? and how it was on ad nauseum, much like KingTV mentioned in his post. Or maybe that show failed because they started having P. Diddy as a contestant instead of Joe the Plumber. I understand that the economy wasn’t in the shape it is now but couldn’t they hire young talent fresh full of ideas translation cheap young ins full of imagination?

    I could get behind Leno’s show if it didn’t sound like the Tonight Show at 10 pm. Is there going to be anything new or cutting edge about it that would make it more appealing? Will it have more sketch comedy or feature up and coming musical talent. Would it be a hybrid of The Tonight Show/SNL/The Daily Show? What about this decision should have anyone intrigued or even happy or positive about NBC’s future, at least, w/ Zucker at the helm?

  11. Profile photo of

    4 hours of today. 3 hours of Late night shows back to back. Nothing But Cheap. How about Nothing But Crap? Oh and Jamey, They would never bring back thse show. Original ideas don’t have a place at the new NBC. Brandon Tartikof must be rolling in the grave right now.

  12. Profile photo of Jillian Bowe
    Jillian Bowe

    Ok after all the dust settled in my head here I’m just wondering like everyone else… What the HELL is NBC thinking?! Someone mentioned NBC dug themselves into a hole by canning Jay for Conan, yeah they sure as hell did! Even Letterman commented that it made NO SENSE for NBC to get rid of their hit maker Leno. The competition is on Leno’s side for Christ sakes! Now I’ve heard of people wanting to go out while they are on top but that only works when I dunno, when you WANT to LEAVE and not forced out. I like Leno but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop watching my CSI’s for him! I’ve also wondered about what’s going to happen to my other favs Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU. Leno was better off leaving to go to ABC instead of staying on NBC for this mess, its as if NBC’s trying to force him out by giving him the 10pm timeslot.

  13. Profile photo of ssjohn

    For my thoughts on this read the (Part 1) post, but here i will focus on days and NBC, as most people who know me, or read my post on here know I enjoy international soaps ((English language ones like Eastenders , Home and away, etc)) and I can actually see a way by adopting the Australian soap model to save days on NBC.

    The Australian soap model is kindof like our Primetime model, there are X # of episodes a year, each year starts with a premier and ends with a big cliffhanger, there are mini ‘BIG’ cliffhangers during the year for breaks and such.

    So think of how DAYS (let’s ignore the whole Dena Higgly being the writer and the show sucking at the moment, think (Holy crap… i am citing JER stuff…) Possession / New Salem (before everyone came back)) would do having a SEASON finale, also from a marketing stand point this is a amazing idea, you could sell DVD’s of the soap season.

    “On sale now, the 2009 season of Days of our lives, relive the farewell of daytimes most iconic couple, and their triumph return to television, the shocking twist and turns and the shocking death of the leading heroine Melanie, all this and more for only $49.99″

    Anyways i am rambling, but i still see places where NBC can cut the ‘budget’ for days and by doing so vastly improve the show ((This of course is with a writer who knows how to write))

  14. Profile photo of josser

    J. Bernard,

    I think the Leno block will be a disaster for NBC. I used to watch much of NBC’s 10PM programming (Medium, L&O, etc.). I can’t stand Leno. So, I’ll watch something on another network or find something else to do.

    Given GE’s (parent of NBC) reputation as quick to fire, I’m shocked that Zucker hasn’t been fired yet. He’s a terrible programmer. NBC is dead last in the ratings and only has a few decent shows but PLENTY of Dateline shows.

  15. Profile photo of Luke Kerr
    Luke Kerr

    I had thought that Leno would be  disaster for NBC too…however, now I’m beginning to reconsider. I actually think it may be a success. My reasoning is the FOX channel format of having the news at 9PM CST instead of at 10. Now all those early to bed people can watch Leno 1.5 hrs earlier and then end with the evening news. If anything it could be Conan that gets screwed, which is perfectly fine with me. I can’t stand Conan.

  16. Profile photo of josser


    I think from a financial stand point, NBC figures it’s no lose situation. They no they’ll lose viewers but their cost to produce Leno is 1/5 the cost to create fiction programming.

    Unfortunately, NBC doesn’t have American Idol. The network trying to figure itself out. There are only a handful programs I like on it.

    The other networks, however, have a chance to pick up the departing audience but so does cable and the Internet.

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