Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Prime Time on NBC is Changing - Can It Work?

Imagine this scenario: The writer's strike stopped production of broadcast content, TV advertising revenue, like other media is down, and forecasts are for more decline. The actors union is threatening to strike which would shut production again. Costs are going up and revenue is going down. With NBC, repeats haven't been working, new shows haven't been working, old shows are getting more expensive to produce and are seeing their audience declines. Solution, talk show programming weekdays on prime time!

When the announcement was made that Jay Leno was being taken off the Tonight Show to be replaced by Conan O'Brien, the speculation was where Leno was going. To ABC to compete against his former show? Or to Fox (which has had a lousy history with talk shows - remember Joan Rivers and Chevy Chase). Well today's announcement by NBC essentially kills two birds with one stone. They keep Leno and they fill the primetime with cheap programming. "Interesting how this news comes right after NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker told an investors conference today that he's considering cutting the number of hours and even the number of nights that the network airs programming. Since The Tonight Show is a cash cow, Zucker no doubt figures that Leno at 10 PM could be another."

But can a talk show/variety show work on prime time, 5 days a week? I personally am a fan of seeing a variety show come back to prime time. And while Rosie Live was a fiasco, a polarizing host with frenetic pacing, the concept has potential. But it is not a five night a week show, nor should it be a talk show. Five nights will kill this experiment....FAST. And what will it do to a Conan hosted Tonight Show? I'm afraid, it will be viewed as competition and could actually kill the Tonight Show franchise once and for all.

Let me propose to NBC how this show should be developed. First, pick one night. Second, move it to the family hour - 8pm. Next, relocate the show to Vegas to utilize a different talent base. While some of Jays bits should transfer, the new local provides an endless resource of Vegas talent to draw from as well as tourists to make fun of. You also benefit by getting audiences interested in attending the show. Live or taped, your call, the viewer won't object to either. Lastly, make Jay more the master of Ceremonies and less the centerpiece. One bit a show is fine but the remainder should be the acts onstage. These changes will provide you with an inexpensive program, a greater chance of ratings success, and won't damage the Tonight Show brand.

Don't follow this advice and lets count how many shows air before this 10pm fiasco fades to distant memory.

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