My day got off to a shaky start and I'm still trying to digest a lot of today's news, but like most of our site's readers, I'm most focused on all the Jay Leno news/noise today.
Should these moves happen during the current TV season, there will be plenty of time for the TV by the Numbers staff (AKA me and Bill) to eat our plate of crow. When you're trying to digest a big meal (even if it's crow), sometimes breaking it into smaller parts before eating it is the way to go. With that in mind, here are some bite sized bits. They are just top of mind, I am not trying to be comprehensive, but feel free to add your own thoughts.
If Leno moves back to 11:30p, who will be happy?
1.) The Affiliates
Whether it actually winds up improving their lot in life any or not, the affiliates will at least have a day in the sun. The affiliates have been against the Leno at 10pm move from the start, and even if it doesn't improve their lot any/much, they will be happy
2.) Jay Leno
NBC, fearful of losing Conan announced Leno's retirement well in advance. Then, fearful of losing Jay to ABC, and as a way to save lots of cash, NBC announced the 10pm deal. But Jay really never wanted to leave 11:30pm to begin with. He was #1.
The affiliates aren't happy, plus Conan has lost the edge over Letterman that Leno had for years. #1 in late night plus quiet affiliates might not sound too bad.
There aren't a ton of jobs for late night hosts, perhaps being on at 12:30am and not having to deal with 11:30p + Leno at 10p won't seem that bad. Or perhaps he'd be mad as hell.
5.) TV Fans, Producers of Scripted Content, Actors, Purists, etc
Sure, it's not likely that NBC would replace all 5 hours with scripted content, and it's possible they won't replace ANY of the 5 hours with scripted content. But if an hour or two of existing scripted content got shifted, purists will claim victory. Even if it's Dateline in the hallowed 10pm Thursday time slot! As long as its not Jay Leno, many people will fist pump.
If Leno moves back to 11:30p, who won't be happy?
1.) The Affiliates
Very possibly they'll be not much better off than before. NBC can probably easily improve its 10pm ratings two nights by pushing "Biggest Loser" into 10pm and "Law & Order: SVU" to 10pm. The other nights they currently have nothing that jump out at you and make you think 'this will clearly and consistently deliver much better ratings than TJLS. So, the affiliates prospects would improve some, on a couple of nights a week, but the affiliates wouldn't be able to whine about the other nights for a while.
If it makes this move soon, it's not clear that the network will be any better off in prime time, and holding its place in line (last place) at increased expense can't be a happy thought. And not just because whatever it replaces TJLS with would necessarily be much more expensive, but because after spending a boatload of money to promote Leno at 10pm, they'd have to promote other stuff. Plus they'd have to spend on promoting Leno at 11:30pm (and potentially Conan at 12:30pm). Its prospects at 11:30p probably improve, but in primetime it will still be a fourth place network.
NBC is in a spot here where no matter what it does with regard to Leno it looks bad to someone. It's unclear to me whether the current news is motivated by real losses at 11pm by NBC's owned and operated affiliates that caused internal pressure, a lack of capability to manage both the owned & operated affiliates plus all the other affiliates too or some combination of both. Or perhaps Zucker finally got sick of Leno texting him all day with "11:30p. Please. God. 11:30p" messages.
If it could be demonstrably shown that by moving Leno back to 11:30pm that NBC had actually "cut its losses" that would be one thing. If Leno moves back to 11:30pm, you can count on the phrase "cut its losses" to be tossed around by the TV media. But without any numbers to back it up.
Pretty clearly NBC has demonstrated that a low rated Leno (say 1.5 adults 18-49) is a much more profitable endeavor than an expensive scripted show that doesn't fare much/any better. Of course, NBC can juggle the schedule and ultimately replace 5 hours of unscripted Leno with 5 hours of unscripted programming...but in such a way that it won't draw nearly as much notice as airing Leno at 10pm Mon-Friday. And from NBC's perspective that might be viewed as a win. OK, that should've gone in the "happy" column. Oh well.
While it might be the best thing that could happen for Conan if it goes down, that doesn't mean he has to like it.
4.) Jimmy Fallon
5.) David Letterman
6.) Cable Networks Looking to fill a 10pm scripted content void
I don't really buy this thinking, but all the cable networks scheduling 10pm scripted shows will keep an eye on what NBC is doing. But so will all the networks scheduling unscripted shows at 10pm.
ABC has really sucked at 10pm on two nights out of the week with anemic ratings for show like "The Forgotten", and "Eastwick" (and now "Ugly Betty"). Because of Leno, ABC pretty much flew under the radar with its suckage. As soon as there's something at 10pm that's NOT Leno that's beating those shows' crappy ratings, that will be on New York Times' Media Decoder. Leno beating "The Forgotten" though -- that never made news. Go figure.