NBC Hands Jay Leno 23% of Primetime

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December 8th, 2008

Broadcasting & Cable, The New York Times and others are reporting that NBC will give Jay Leno its 10-11pm time-slot every weeknight beginning next fall.

From B&C:

In a surprise move, Jay Leno is taking over the 10 p.m. slot on weeknights on the network.

The move would be a cost-effective manner in which to essentially cut down the amount of hours it must program with fare from the entertainment division. Jeff Zucker foreshadowed the move at a UBS media conference Monday, saying that NBC has to look at options including programming less primetime hours.

It would be a much-needed victory for struggling NBC in the wake of a massive round of layoffs and a re-organization of the entire way the network and studio are structured as the network continues to languish in fourth place.

From the NYTimes:

No broadcast network has ever before offered the same show in prime time five nights a week. Such so-called “stripped shows” have been a staple of daytime broadcasting.

The offer of a new weeknight show for Mr. Leno at 10 p.m., an idea that NBC executives said Monday came from the NBC chief executive,Jeff Zucker, not only allows NBC to retain Mr. Leno’s services, but also means the network may be able to greatly reduce costs of developing and producing other prime-time shows.

It looks like Jeff Zucker was serious about throwing in the towel. Quite a vote of confidence in the capabilities of your entertainment division programmers. Looks like all the NBC Entertainment jobs freed up this week by firings might not need to get filled after all!

Just remember, you read it here first!

Update: Even Jay's in on the joke!

And as Leno becomes the lead-in for the late local newscasts, he joked that he might be getting his own lead-in from NBC's increasingly expanding morning show: "Where I am coming on at 10, I will be on right after the last hour of the new today show."

Yet another Update: NBC is officially throwing in the towel:

“We are not trying to compete,” Mr. Graboff [Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios} said.

Update: If you'd like to do a bit of theorizing about the potential ratings for the new Leno at 10 show, consider that during the just completed November sweeps, these were Leno's numbers at 11:35pm.

Total viewers: 4.9 million

Adults 18-49: 1.3 rating / 5 share

Those are pretty close to the season to date averages for the show as well.

Can Jay double that 18-49 rating airing 95 minutes earlier (and with a 60 minute show)? I'd say it's certainly possible. That would beat 3 of the 5 shows NBC put on at 10pm last week. And one of those shows that it didn't beat, ER, is in its last season.

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