There is just no pleasing a network affiliate these days. NBC has been vilified (at least in the trade press) because The Jay Leno Show is not a good lead-in for the affiliates' local news programs. We haven't actually seen ABC vilified yet even though at least a couple of nights a week it is doing no better (or worse) than Leno.
Now comes word that not even the CBS affiliates are happy with the way 10pm works, even though CBS wins the hour routinely:
General managers of CBS affiliates frequently say it's a good time to be a CBS station. Primetime is thriving, particularly the 10 p.m. dramas, which are gaining ratings points against fewer scripted shows in that hour. But GMs wish those dramas ran a few minutes longer, to seamlessly serve up viewers to their stations' late news.
At the annual CBS affiliates meeting in May, the station executives voiced their concerns to the network about the 10 p.m. shows ending well before 11, pushing CBS for less cluttered lead-ins to late news this fall. But as the new season progresses, it seems their complaints have gone unheeded.
A 10 p.m. drama on CBS may end two or three minutes short of 11. While the subsequent gap features a late-news tease, it also has an array of spots, credits, scenes from next week's episode and a plug for The Late Show before local news rolls. With viewers increasingly watching TV with a laptop or iPhone nearby, there's mounting anxiety that they will tune out during the minutes-long gap between primetime programming and local news in favor of their digital devices.
While the trade press makes much ado about lead-ins to local news, the real ado should be made about this: the affiliate model is busted. In the old days, the local affiliate model made sense. It was a way for the big broadcasters to have virtual monopolies nationwide. It was the only way for national broadcasters to be national broadcasters!
Those days are gone.
Increasingly, what the local affiliates are searching for is relevancy; and the revenue that comes from being relevant. But, the local affiliates will never be as relevant as they used to be. More and more, the national broadcasters will be looking for ways to unwind from the affiliate model.