TIME Cover Story: “Jay Leno is the Future of TV. Seriously”
Jay Leno gets the cover of Time Magazine for the September 14, 2009 issue in a cover story written by James Poniewozik. It’s a long article (hey, it’s the cover story!) but a good read.
If The Jay Leno Show succeeds — where succeeding means not getting more viewers than the competition but simply increasing NBC’s profit margin — it suggests a TV future in which ambitious dramas become the stuff of boutique cable, while the broadcasters become a megaphone for live events and cheap nonfiction. “If the Leno Show works,” says former NBC president Fred Silverman, “it will be the most significant thing to happen in broadcast television in the last decade.”
But it’s more than about Jay Leno, it’s also delves deeply into the issues facing the television industry, particularly the broadcast networks. It somewhat skewers NBC, while allowing it to spin its side of the story. But also gives you the other side of the coin:
NBC’s competitors’ response: Speak for yourselves. To them, NBC is self-servingly spinning a collapse of its own making as a symptom of industry-wide problems. “It might be an accurate picture for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s an accurate picture for everybody,” says Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president of prime time for CBS, the top network in overall viewers. “We don’t like being painted with the same brush.” CBS will face off against Leno with the imposing likes of CSI: Miami, and right now, it likes its chances. “We have successful shows at 10. We dominate 10 o’clock. It’s a good business for us now and a business with the potential to get better.”
Some people are predicting an early demise for The Jay Leno Show and think NBC might be forced to quickly change the schedule and at least reduce the number of nights a week it airs. We think that’s nonsense and Bill is on the record that it is ridiculous to think NBC won’t stick with Leno in prime time for the full season at least.
So one of the more interesting nuggest of the article for me was:
NBC says it’s committed to airing The Jay Leno Show five nights a week for at least two years, good ratings or bad. The network gave Leno years to find his legs in late night, but in prime time, success is measured in scant weeks. The Jay Leno Show will almost certainly get a huge tune-in at first; research shows its awareness among viewers is twice that of a well-promoted new show. Does that mean it’s a slam dunk? Ask Katie Couric.
There’s lots, lots more, and I recommend reading the full article.