The Masked Scheduler is opening up his mailbag to answer your questions. Today’s question comes from MvW, all the way from Finland…
Hi Masked Scheduler!
My question: With the woes networks have experienced in recent years scheduling 10 p.m. slots, is it possible that CBS, ABC and NBC will simply axe the 10 p.m. slot altogether, a la FOX and CW? It seems like dead weight to me. — MvW
FOX, UPN and The WB were all networks that aggregated what were known as independent stations that were not affiliated with one of the three established broadcast networks. Prior to hooking up with one of the “weblets,” these stations carried syndicated programs in prime time and were generally known for starting their local newscasts an hour before the established broadcast networks. For these stations, their 10 p.m. (9 Central) was untouchable so the smaller networks only provided two hours of programming.
The broadcast networks would lose too much money if they gave back an hour of programming to their affiliated stations and that’s even with the lower ratings. The networks would have to significantly increase the unit cost of a commercial to offset the decline in revenue. Also, since networks own a lot of their programming, it would reduce the number of opportunities to create assets that have value beyond their broadcast run. That is becoming more important every year.
NBC experimented with the 10 p.m. hour when they put Jay Leno in the slot after he had “retired” and was replaced by Conan O’Brien. They had actually considered that during the Leno/Letterman conundrum but didn’t go forward.
Several years ago, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento moved primetime up an hour to 7 p.m. and put local news at 10 p.m. That experiment failed.
At the end of the day, although 10 p.m. is a DVR playback time period as well as an hour where competition from basic and premium increases, if the networks put on compelling programming they can succeed. I always remain optimistic.
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