On Monday at 10 pm, NBC will premiere The Jay Leno Show, a talk/variety show, and air it Monday through Friday. 5 hours of low cost programming, live to tape, to compete with DVR and VOD technology. Revenue for the show through advertising may not be huge, but the profit margin may change how TV gets programmed.
The last format that changed TV was reality programming. A decade ago, broadcast shows like Survivor, Amazing Race, and yes American Idol made average people into stars. And these shows beget even more reality shows on cable. Cooking shows, wedding shows, home buying shows and yes even parenting shows. We idolized Rob and Amber, Kelly Clarkson, and now Jon & Kate. Low cost programming that generated ratings.
On Monday, new format may change TV again or prove a bust. The Jay Leno Show will fill multiple hours of prime time real estate and will either become the "must watch show for the 2009-10 season, or the worst idea since "Captain Nice" and "Manimal". Don't judge the success of this format on the returns from Monday night. It will take a good month or two to gauge its stickiness. Curiosity will cause us to watch in the beginning to see what all the fuss is about. But whether we stay is another story.
My personal opinion is that 5 nights a week is too many. And the first night's guest list doesn't seem to match who Jay's core audience is designed to reach. There will be a lot of sleepless nights for NBC executives as they watch and interpret the ratings from this experience. At the end, they will be deemed either geniuses or fools. I doubt there will be a middle ground. And should it indeed fail, NBC can at least say they kept Jay from jumping to another network to compete with their Tonight Sow brand. Perhaps that is something they can take away from this programming chess game.
PS. And should The Jay Leno Show succeed, we will have seen TV change again from the golden days!