I was on the Internet reading (another) article on why The Jay Leno show will  blow up in NBC’s face and found myself agreeing with many of the reasons, but one of the reasons had me shaking my head from side to side:

The creative community in the TV industry has no motivation to work with NBC. If you don’t have a 10 p.m. slot where the material can be more mature and the storytelling more ambitious, why go there? Besides, if your pilot ends up at NBC, five slots are off the board already, making your chance of getting picked up slimmer. So why not try to sell to CBS or Fox or ABC or cable?

This sounds like one of those things that feels really, really good to say (especially if you’re a creative type) but seems very unlikely to be true in the real world. 

FOX doesn’t even program the 10pm-11pm hour.  I know Shawn Ryan who created The Shield and is now working on Lie to Me and has another project (Terriers) for FX, isn’t happy with the Jay Leno thing, but FOX not programming the 10pm hour didn’t stop him from accepting a paycheck.

And of the 15 hours a week FOX programs, typically 5-7 hours a week is unscripted and two hours of Sunday is an animation block.

And c’mon.  Even before Leno was announced NBC was probably not at the top of anyone’s list. Ratings erosion was already bad.  I know if I had a show to sell, I would want ABC, CBS or FOX first, at least in terms of prospects for more exposure.   The downside of those networks is the pressure to succeed fast is far greater, but the reward can be well worth the risk.

Ultimately though, networks pass on shows all the time, and there is not an unlimited supply of broadcast networks to buy them.  As long as NBC is a buyer of shows, there will be sellers.

Cable networks?  Name a cable network that programs more than 6  hours of original scripted drama a week at any given time?   Even in the summer it’s not like there are cable networks programming new scripted shows three hours a night, five nights a week.  Or even two hours a night five nights a week.  Or even two hours a night four nights a week.

There are a limited number of buyers, with money.  That’s motivation enough for the studios.  Plus, the way all the union stuff is set up, you and everyone involved with your show usually winds up getting paid more if your show is picked up by a broadcast network.

Even with Leno, NBC will order more scripted series than say, Showtime or HBO or any cable network.  So I can’t see the creative community excluding them because of Leno.  I can see people saying they feel that way, but, I’m betting NBC winds up getting pitched a lot of shows just like it always has.

The same article also said:

He’ll get beaten by scripted programming, and advertisers will pay his rival networks more for their dramas than they will for Leno’s talk show. That cuts in to the cost savings.

That I agree with, but NBC was used to being beaten by the other networks at 10pm with the exception of Law & Order: SVU  Monday’s through Thursdays and was used to making less revenue.  That doesn’t cut into cost savings, though it does potentially cut into profitability.  Details, sadly, that we’ll never ever see.

Reading between the lines of what Zucker has said, it reads to me something like “If we wind up averaging even as low as a 1.3 rating, we’ll still be happy with the money we’re making on the show”.  So minus any financial data I will view Leno’s ratings performance as follows:

  • Adults 18-49 greater than or equal to 1.5 = Happy NBC
  • Adults 18-49 1.3-1.5 = gray area
  • Adults 18-49 less than 1.3 =  Unhappy NBC
Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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