Ever since NBC announced that The Jay Leno Show would take over its weekdays from 10-11pm, there has been entertainment industry push back against the idea. However, since the season began we’ve seen on our site (and I have read lots more elsewhere) a surprising level of anger expressed over the show.

Would the anger have be the same if NBC had, instead, put Dateline NBC on from 10-11pm weekdays?

I’ll try and distill some of the different anger causing points vs. The Jay Leno Show, and compare them with potential alternative reaction to Dateline NBC.

  1. It’s putting actors, writers, show runners, and other dramatic creatives out of work. Dateline would do the same, but presumably would increase the demand for news writers, producers, camera operators, etc.
  2. It’s removing 5 of the critical 18 (Sunday-Friday) 10pm broadcast primetime hours that were traditionally used for the most leading edge dramas. Dateline, having already removed Friday at 10pm, would only be taking 4 hours, but I doubt this would reduce the anger.
  3. It will ruin the Tonight Show. While Dateline would likely produce similar 10pm ratings, (Dateline Friday averaged a 1.5 demo rating last season), it wouldn’t create booking conflicts or potential talk show fatigue vs. the Tonight Show.
  4. The Jay Leno Show is ruining the rest of NBC’s primetime ratings. I think this charge is nonsense, but perhaps Dateline would be subject to the same nonsense.
  5. It canceled my favorite show! Maybe My Name is Earl fans could make that claim, Dateline would have done the same.

Ultimately, I think that a similar Dateline move would have generated less anger. One reason for the Leno anger is that it can be directed at a single identifiable person (Jay), whereas who is the face of Dateline? Plus, I don’t think it would be, at least publicly, as acceptable to criticize “news” programming, as it is a talk show.

And we know for a fact that ABC has considered putting news programming on at 10pm 5 nights a week (they already do Fridays), but as Robert has astutely guessed, they very well might mix their brands on different nights (Primetime, 20/20, Barbara Walters) so they could make the public claim they weren’t “doing what NBC is doing”.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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