Why NBC might cancel the ratings-winning prime-hour rush

NBC might spend an hour winning the ratings. Sounds like a bug, but this step could help Jimmy Fallon, Peacock, and the bottom line.

NBC Considering cutting the 10 p.m. off-peak schedule and handing over programming duties to local affiliates, The Wall Street Journal reported on August 26. “While NBC is the number one network, we are always looking at strategies to ensure our broadcasting business remains as robust as possible,” a spokesperson for media outlets, including IndieWire, commented after the story broke. “As a company, our advantage lies in our ability to provide audiences with the content they love across broadcast, cable and broadcast.”

OK, but how exactly does killing a third of prime time programming accomplish that? We’ll get to it, but the real, unstated reason is easier to pinpoint, official statement or not: It’s all about cutting costs.

Live sports, which are a heavy burden on NBC’s bottom line, are increasingly expensive. Also not cheap building a peacock as a key player in the ongoing and Content-focused streaming wars. Ditching an hour of linear television can help offset some of those costs. And it also doesn’t eliminate the revenue stream entirely: NBCUniversal still invests in affiliates by splitting advertising revenue when local programming is on the air.

On the flip side, affiliate marketers likely won’t turn down the initial time period to improve their pockets. Local market content, such as news, is much cheaper to produce – and 10 o’clock is better than 11 o’clock.

10pm is still the least watched overall peak The slot where people turn off and turn over their televisions. This means that they generate the least amount of hourly revenue from national advertisers. Partly offsetting these factors is the fact that 10pm is rush hour with the most delayed viewing.

As for her competition, NBC is so much more successful that 10 p.m. might give her away. From September 20, 2021 through last Thursday, August 25, NBC Entertainment’s average rating (so no sports) averaged 0.38 “Live.” This number grows to 0.56 with one week of watching a catch-up DVR (mostly). Live + 7 Day is how linear TV ratings are generally reported these days; All ratings in this story are Nielsen data.

Meanwhile, CBS had an average rating of 0.32 Live+ on the same day. The average ABC was 0.29. With viewing lag, both CBS and ABC jump to a rating of 0.46, which is an even larger lag than NBC. Once again, CBS, which is older than the other two networks, is number one in terms of total viewers per hour; NBC is the second.

Chicago PD -

NBC “Chicago PD” Actions

Laurie Allen/NBC

NBC, CBS, and ABC have served national programming from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. — aka prime time — since the early days of television. The younger broadcast networks (in terms of age and beta access) Fox and The CW have already cut out their prime time programming at 10 p.m., handing the reins over to affiliates.

Eliminating the 10 a.m. NBC (and NBC only) averages from that September-August period, NBC would overtake CBS in “live” viewers. In Nielsen’s Live + 7 Day numbers, CBS will retain the advantage of only 5,000 total viewers on NBC. Looking at things this way is equal parts unfair and plausible: On the basis of prime-time averages, comparing 8pm-10pm versus 8pm-11pm puts those networks with 10pm at a disadvantage. However, this is not new. The industry is already doing this when ranking Fox and The CW with the original Big Three broadcasters.

Another positive about 10pm elimination: Jimmy Fallon will get a head start over his late-night rivals. “The Tonight Show” currently kicks off at 11:35 p.m., just like CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC. With no prime time 10 on the way, Fallon could start at 11pm – until 10:30, if affiliates agree to run 30 or 35 minutes of local news late at night (as it currently does).

During the 11-month period we studied for this story, “The Tonight Show” and Colbert in the demo tied for the main ratings, adults 18-49, with an average of 0.22 each. Colbert grows more than Fallon in delayed viewing; Unlike scripting, talk shows don’t get a huge boost in a DVR. Kimmel tracks the other two through the current season from September through September, averaging 0.19 Live + Same Day. The delay in watching doesn’t affect Jimmy from ABC until NBC TV.

No matter how you slice it, Colbert is far ahead of its direct competition in terms of total viewers. Fallon brings the back with this Nielsen scale, which counts everyone age 2 or older. (Although they’re sure to keep new parents awake, there aren’t many kids watching late-night TV.) In other words, former TV king Fallon could definitely take advantage of this perk. (If there was 1 hour of local programming instead of 30 or 35 minutes, Fallon might not reap any rewards.)

The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon - Episode 1702 - Pictured: (lr) Actress Juno Temple during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on Thursday, August 18, 2022 - (Photo: Todd Ooyoung/NBC)

Juno Temple during the “Tonight Show” interview with host Jimmy Fallon on August 18, 2022

Todd Ooyoung/NBC

A person familiar with NBC’s internal discussions told IndieWire that the conversations related to the 10 p.m. cast are preliminary. Any such transformation would be at least a year later; Much of NBC’s upcoming fall schedule programming has already been completed and the ad is selling out. Should the move drop, it would only affect NBC’s regularly scheduled programming. In other words, “Sunday Night Football,” the Olympics, the Golden Globes, and any other special event can (and will) override this new primetime default cutoff; NBC stations will commit to programming the event.

This fall, NBC will air new series “Quantum Leap” at 10 p.m. on Mondays, “New Amsterdam” in the slot on Tuesdays, “Chicago BD” on Wednesdays, and “Law & Order: Organized Crime” ” on Thursdays, and “date line” on Fridays; “SNL Vintage”, replay, airs on the slot on Saturdays. On Sundays in the fall, the top TV show “Sunday Night Football” rules the airwaves. The schedule turns mid-season and again in the summer. If NBC delivers the 10am to local affiliates in the future, quite a few shows will be canceled or moved to another platform.

NBCUniversal’s broadcast offering, Peacock, has the bandwidth and can use the content. And there are good things here: “PD” is a key part of Dick Wolf’s “One Chicago” lineup (“organized crime” is less relevant to the “Law & Order” world), and within NBC those who watched the “Quantum Leap reboot” are pretty excited about it.

Cutting time and returning it to affiliates wouldn’t be unprecedented, particularly for NBC. Mark Lazarus, Chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, canceled Lilly Singh’s late-night show at 1:30 a.m.; The time period has returned to the affiliate marketers. Just like this call, Lazarus wouldn’t make this call in a vacuum: its affiliate relations department has a connection that technically operates in the NBCU but along with independently owned stations. Any decision will be collaborative.

There are about 230 non-NBC owned subsidiaries across the country; Another 11 companies (“NBC Local”) are owned and operated by NBCUniversal. NBC O&O’s 11 stations represent, less than 5 percent of the grand total, 30 percent of the total national audience.

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