In the wake of a lot of drivel being written about the Leno-pocalypse comes an excellent opinion piece from Ad Age’s Brian Steinberg.
Here are his major points (there is a lot more behind each of them in the article):
- TV networks need to innovate, but NBC’s failure might chill their enthusiasm for doing so.
- Affiliates will continue to get in the way of clever broadcast-network experiments.
- Late-night may never be the same again.
1. Agree on the need to innovate, and completely agree on the chilling effect of doing it in such an “in your face” manner that Zucker/NBC used with The Jay Leno Show, but I think it’s quite likely you’ll see plenty of incremental changes (that don’t have a big “hate me” bullseye painted on them). Edit: In this case, I define “innovation” as simply doing something different, not something necessarily packed with genius. TJLS was different, and hardly genius.
2. Absolutely. Not just because of the Leno rebellion, but because of the changing economics of broadcast television (like retransmission fee splits) as well, it’s pretty clear to me that the business relationships between broadcast networks and their affiliates are going to get very strained, perhaps very soon.
3. Yes, but it wasn’t “the same” even before Jay left the Tonight Show. Nobody on the late night air is even remotely close to a Johnny Carson like figure in either cultural significance or ratings, and I don’t think that NBC could have prevented that even if they made all the right moves. The declining share of broadcast television is way to strong a trend to buck over time.