Jeff Zucker says Leno drawing a 1.8 adults 18-49 rating in prime-time would be a "home run"

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

May 31st, 2009

tonight-show

The media elite has seemingly always been fascinated with the late-night talk show genre, even if the fascination seems horribly out of sync with actual viewership.   But  the media elite love covering Gossip Girl, Mad Men and Damages and hardly anyone is watching those shows.  In the media's defense, Leno is unquestionably a household name and a huge celebrity and NBC filling Monday to Friday 10pm with unscripted Leno is big news! I expect there will literally be thousands of stories on this topic between now and when Leno's new show premieres in September, and thousands more in the weeks immediately following the premiere. 

If nothing else, NBC will have a lot of free publicity on its hands, but as we well know, there is not always correlation between exposure and viewing.  Fear not, I will not be starting "150 Days of Jay Leno".  At least not until September!

The New York Times has a story on Leno in prime-time and what it means for the industry and it makes for a fairly good primer of how different parties feel about the move (other broadcasters, cable networks, etc).  Will it work or won't it work?  My favorite quote in the story was (from an executive who asked not to be named):

“If I’m a producer of a scripted show, I would rather be up against Leno than any other form of competition — now and always. It’s like getting a bye in a tennis tournament.”

But that it's potentially good news for those scripted shows, doesn't mean it's bad news for NBC.  The story also quotes NBC chief Jeff Zucker saying that a 1.8 with adults 18-49 would be a home run.  But NBC doesn't need it to be a home run.  It just needs it not to strike out.  I'm trying to triangulate what a single means, and these are my approximations if a 1.8 is considered a home run.

  • 1.3-1.4 = single
  • 1.5-1.6= double
  • 1.7 = triple
  • 1.8+ = home run

I might actually even be on the high end with a single.  For all I know a 1.1 or 1 .2 will be considered OK by NBC.  We don't have any access to NBC's number crunching model, sadly, but at least we can reverse engineer a bit from a 1.8 adults 18-49 rating, at least assuming that Zucker was honest about a 1.8 being a home run.  It's possible that he's just trying to lower expectations, but for now I'll take him at his word.

I'm pretty sure the show will debut to strong numbers.  But despite the Zucker quote about 1.8 being a home run, I predict the first time it dips below a 2.0  and that could happen rapidly, there will be stories in the media declaring the show a failure!

 
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