Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Note to Jeff Zucker about the Leno thing

Jeff, I know you’re President and CEO of NBC Universal. So I expect it to be difficult to see the same big picture you see in your head for the NBC broadcast network. While I do understand your efforts to diversify NBCU, I can’t seem to get your view of the prime time TV schedule.

Here’s what I see for the upcoming Winter Season 8-10 pm Monday prime time. Fox with “House” plus “24" and CBS with it’s comedy lineup will own a significant chunk of the audience for scripted programming. ABC will grab off the reality audience chunk with 90 minute “The Bachelor” followed by the popular “Samantha Who”. The younger crowd (along with many of us younger at heart) will be watching either The CW’s “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill” or ABC Family’s “Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “Kyle XY”. And the crime procedural fans will reject that 10 hours of programming to watch TNT’s “The Closer”, slated to return in January in the 9-10 pm slot.

You see, Jeff, to me, it makes no sense that you would allow the new Leno talk variety show to block NBC from putting any scripted shows in from 10-11 pm. After all, compared to the competition outlined above from 8-10 pm, why would you not want to try a scripted show against CBS “CSI: Miami”, ABC “True Beauty” and TNT “Trust Me.” Why would you keep NBC’s scripted shows where they can’t possibly get any ratings - the 8-10 pm slots.

How about Tuesday 8-10 pm, Jeff? Fox, of course, has that little cult show called “American Idol” which will be followed by “Fringe”. CBS has those time slot almost thrown away with sweeps winners “NCIS” and “The Mentalist” And ABC is practically giving up with their new “Homeland Security USA” docucopsoap and that worthless show you cancelled, “Scrubs”. And The CW is always a pushover with such fluff as “90210" and “Privileged” (the latter to be replaced by “Reaper” in March).

I guess it make sense to you that the new Leno talk variety show would block NBC from putting any scripted shows in from 10-11 pm. What? Someone told you that no one would want to try a scripted show against CBS “Without a Trace” and ABC’s struggling/cancelled “Eli Stone”. After all, you would also be facing TNT’s “Leverage” and FX “Nip/Tuck” which apparently might pull in 8 million viewers? Otherwise, why would you schedule Leno there instead of a good scripted show.

The rest of the week 8-10 pm is, of course, similarly structured with your competition scheduling what you must think are their weak shows. Yep, you wouldn’t want to schedule something other than Leno against those Thursday 10 pm heavyweights like “Private Practice” and “Eleventh Hour”, when you can put your scripted shows against “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI”. And you can put one of your scripted shows not only against them Thursday, but also against “Burn Notice” which is on some cable network - USA, ever heard of it? NBCU owns it. Why would you have Leno on at 10 pm so you have no choice but to screw two of your properties, NBC and USA.

I know, I know. Advertisers are already cheering you, so you’ll be a hero at GE for a couple of more quarters. The ad buyers think Leno is more DVR proof. They, of course, don’t know that in our home we DVR both Leno and Letterman every night, to be watched the following day skipping all those (and I mean “all” those) commercials and the many segments of show we don’t want to watch. The ad buyers must think we’re not representative of the future of television. Unlike us, they think other people are getting DVR’s just so they can watch Leno’s commercials live and the repeat them a few times. Have you sold the 9 pm Sunday slot to these same morons?

In December 2007 I wrote here: “Yes, that ad supported NBC channel you watch now may degenerate into only news, sports, and televaudeville.” But Jeff, I really didn’t think you would actually try to do that.

Then again, you probably realize it doesn’t matter. You probably know the schedule for January already contains 60 hours a week of scripted programming in prime time without NBC. And half of it is good, without NBC.

I could get along without NBC. But I have a fondness for the network that dates back to the 1950's when my uncle was a producer for NBC programming. And I have a focus on scripted programming. So don’t let the GE corporate view completely destroy NBC as a source of scripted programming.

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