Is It Possible That NBC Did Something Smart?

We never thought we’d say this, but: Huzzah NBC! For some time we’ve hoped the Peacock would start thinking out-of-the-box, since their old strategies clearly weren’t working. Now it looks like they finally are! And while Jay Leno’s shift to 10 p.m. is primarily a cost-saving maneuver–even though the big-chinned comedian will reportedly earn $40-50 million dollars over the life of his new deal, he will save the network money in development costs for other programs–it is also poised to kick-start the fledgling ratings NBC has had for the better part of two years. Making Jay Leno into the face of the network is a stroke of programming genius. Consider this move television’s version of a government bailout.

This year The Tonight Show has drawn in nearly five million viewers per night while airing at 11:34 p.m., and that would still rank in the middle of the pack for NBC’s primetime lineup. Faint praise, yes, but logic seems to dictate that Mr. Leno could pull in a few million more people simply by being on earlier in the evening. The thought is that since Mr. Leno’s show would be live and topical, people would refrain from DVR’ing it to watch at a later time. And as the confusingly titled Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday showed earlier this year, that theory might be true; the three-week SNL special was NBC’s highest rated new program of the Fall, drawing in nearly eleven million people per episode. The reality is that this decision simply tightens up NBC’s programming schedule. Even for someone as seemingly inept as Ben Silverman, it should be a lot easier for him to find television shows people actually want to watch when he only has to program two hours per night.

Don’t get us wrong, making Mr. Leno into a primetime star isn’t an immediate fix; we doubt NBC will regain ratings and revenue superiority within the next calendar year. But with him leading the way, at least there now seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Now if NBC could only find a way to get people to watch Chuck… Is It Possible That NBC Did Something Smart?