Though decidedly unpopular with many in TV's creative community, NBC's bet on "Leno" could be easily chalked up as the best offense being a good defense: Leno posed a threat to NBC if he left for another network, while keeping him in a cost-efficient program freed funds for NBC to rebuild its scripted slate.What's more...
In contrast, the axing of cop drama "Southland" appears to be a more overt retreat. NBC pulled the plug on the John Wells Prods. drama amid circumstances that leave many observers scratching their heads.
For starters, "Southland" was the best-reviewed and highest-rated freshman series in 2008-09 on a network that has been starved for fresh hits.
Further, instead of keeping other networks from using an NBC-developed asset, as was the case with Leno, the axing invites rivals to take the product and run, as CBS did earlier this year with "Medium."
...Some observers have said NBC realized (perhaps better late than never) that "Southland" was too darkly themed to air at 9 p.m. ...But even if NBC were correct about "Southland" being too grim, the network still must contend with the perception of some producers who see the network as being at a nadir of creative vision. The network will still be a port in the recessionary storm for some new projects, but for creators that have their pick of outlets, NBC figures to be the port of last resort.
Since the season kicked off Sept. 21, "Leno" has been holding about 75% of what NBC has averaged from 8 to 10 p.m., compared with holds of more than 90% for CBS and roughly 85% for ABC in the 10 o’clock hour.Of course, you still can't deny that NBC is filling 5 hours of primetime a week for peanuts. It's no disaster. Then again, not all ships go down like the Titanic. Some just rust prematurely and are decomissioned.
This means that while ABC and CBS occasionally deliver their strongest numbers at 10 p.m., NBC is consistently peaking earlier -- and those 8-10 p.m. numbers ain’t pretty. As the network stares down the barrel of another fourth-place finish this season, here’s a look at the early trickle-down effect of "The Leno Show" on other programming:
-- NBC’s "Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien," which had consistently been beating CBS’ "Late Show With David Letterman" in adults 18-49 over the summer, lost during premiere week -- "Late Show’s" first weekly triumph over original "Tonight" segs since 2005.
A primary reason for the shift is that CBS is now much stronger than NBC at 10 p.m. among the coveted 18-49 crowd (3.4 to 1.9 in rating), helping funnel more viewers to Letterman. In the summer, by comparison, CBS held a much smaller edge.