Back in late May, I blogged about NBC’s decision to air the Jay Leno show Monday through Friday at 10pm. I asked whether this was a genius move or a recipe for disaster. While it’s still fairly early in the game, it appears that NBC’s bold move is turning out to be closer to the latter.
We in the world of media are proud of our lingo, acronyms and media terms that are foreign to the non-media world. One of the new terms being coined in 4th quarter 2009 is the “Leno Effect”. This refers to the effect that the 10pm airing of the Leno Show has on the local affiliates’ 11pm news, which is a very important daypart for local stations.
For the first week, Leno seemed to be holding his own. The main reason for this was that the other networks had not yet rolled out their new prime lineups. Once that happened, Leno’s ratings began to fall and with it the local 11pm news ratings. Hence, the Leno Effect. As Leno goes, so goes the 11pm news.
WBAL-TV, the NBC affiliate here in Baltimore (owned by Hearst) had been sitting on top in the late news ratings war – or if not on top, in a tie with WJZ-TV the CBS-owned and operated station. Usually we would have to wait until mid-November to know for sure how things were faring for Leno and the late news. We would be able to get overnights, but they would show only household ratings. We would not have known for sure what was going on with specific demographics until the October Nielsen book came out. But enter LPMs (local people meters) and we now have access to the information instantly, and it hasn’t been a pretty picture here in Baltimore.
In fact, Baltimore has been cited in national news stories as an example of how the Leno Effect is wreaking havoc on the NBC affiliates. In an article in the Los Angeles Times dated October 19, columnist Joe Flint writes about WBAL having become a distant second to WJZ in the 11pm newscast. He goes so far as to say that WBAL “has been shellacked in the ratings.”
Another problem NBC has had is where to put their risqué prime shows that had previously aired at 10pm. One example of this is “Southland”. Southland is a cop drama with adult themes considered unsuitable for airing before 10pm. This created a problem for NBC, which now has no place to put it. There were already 6 taped episodes ready to go on the air Fridays at 9pm when NBC pulled the plug. Luckily for viewers, TNT has picked up the series.
Baltimore Sun (syndicated) columnist David Zurawik has also written several in-depth articles and blogs on this subject. The most recent was this past Sunday (11/8) where he talks about how the NBC affiliates are looking forward to December when other networks may be running repeats at 10pm. They are hoping that viewers will tune to Leno and like it enough to stay with it once the mid-season starts in January. Is this wishful thinking? That’s a question for another day.