Saturday, December 19, 2009


A few months ago I criticized NBC for their decision to keep Jay Leno and move his show to 10 PM, mostly because I don’t find him funny.  However, it was also clear at the time that NBC did not want to put any more money into programming when they could be cheap.  Advertising dollars be damned, as long as something is profitable or not a massive loser.

The problem now is that the Leno show is a loser and it looks like the natives – in this case the affiliates – are getting restless.  10 PM programming leads into local news broadcasts which are huge sources of ad revenues.  Weak programming like Leno keeps viewers away from that network and their money.

On Monday, Ad Age ran an op-ed advising Comcast what to do, which includes firing Jay.  But they did not answer the question of what to replace his show with.  Here are my thoughts on what I would place in the 10 pm slot.

Here is a list of experiments that I would try:

The BBC Programming Model: 
Believe it or not, NBC has been stealing BBC programming long before The Office and most of them have failed.  Why?  Well, it’s simply that these programs – even The Office – have a definitive end.  Once all the good jokes dry up, a team of writers has to take over with characters that they did not create and expect the same results.  This phenomenon also occurs with 100% American products too, so why not go for broke?

There will be a large amount of front end marketing needed to bring in viewers and advertisers, but giving writers the ability to see a product from start to finish will create something that American network television has not had in ages, consistency.  This consistency will then help on the back end profits through DVD and download sales.  I feel like more people watched The Wire on DVD than when it was on HBO.

Take Advantage of Technology:
One might think that NBCU – co-owner of Hulu – would actually know something about digital media, but these are the people who wanted the Jay Leno show to be “un-Tivo-able,” which really means unwatchable (RIMSHOT!).

In the age of YouTube, it may be time to try something that has been done with a new spin.  Why not bring the best of Funny or Die (or something like it) to TV?  Rather than letting people make jerks of themselves on reality competitions, let them genuinely try to be creative.  There’s a reason that America’s Funniest Home Videos worked so well for so long.  While there may end up being writers’ guild issues with the show, I still think it’s a great idea.  After all, competitions like this brought us It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Stop Caring About Mass Appeal:
Yes, NBCU is a major network but audiences are fracturing into microsegments of microsegments.  It’s time to completely own something, and the only way to do it is to create something that is divisive among demos. 

Bring Back Long Format Documentaries:
How awesome was Planet Earth?  How awesome would it have been to have it on a major network?  Educational television can pull in high ratings now – and this goes back to the technology stuff – because the video quality is so stunning that people cannot help but watch.

Documentary film – albeit opinion based - is having a bit of a comeback as of late and NBC news should take advantage by diving deep into a topic and presenting all the facts and history regarding a subject.  Rather than manufactured reality television, why not let journalists and documentarians tell the real life stories of interesting people?

Okay, so maybe this last one is a little nerdy.  But, there is no reason not to try it out. Besides, Sarah and Todd Palin have said in interviews that they love to watch shows like Most Dangerous Catch which illustrates that documentary television is not a red state / blue state issue.  (Yeah, I could have gone for a below the belt shot on that one, but I am trying to act like an adult and make a point.)

So NBCU the ball is your court.  Give us something worth our time.

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