The Leno Effect
The Austin television market is monitored by constantly by Neilson. So, stations see the results of their labors overnight. Therefore, the results of the November ratings come as no surprise.
There is joy at KEYE-TV (CBS), because Austin has a new #2 station. KEYE has been trapped in the TV cellar until a single programming change made the difference. Make no mistake: KEYE has arguably the most experienced anchor team in town, and they produce a good product. They couldn’t climb the ratings ladder until one thing happened—Jay Leno became the 9 O’clock hour-long lead-in show five nights a week on KXAN TV (NBC), the former number #2 station. KVUE TV (ABC) continues its reign as #1 at 10 p.m.
One change doesn’t usually make an immediate difference. This one did, and everyone in the business knew it would be bad for business.
Oh, this sort of parsimonious programming has deep roots in broadcast history and enjoyed great success. The so-called “variety show” was common-place in the 1950s and 1960s. Probably Lawrence Welk was the king. Welk’s “wonderfulla, wonderfulla” shows were re-runs on PBS. There were many others: Red Skelton, Gary Lewis, Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Diana Shore, Eddie Fisher, Cid Caesar, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, the Smothers Brothers, and even “Laugh-in” to name a few. All were hosted by well-known personalities who featured stars and skits. The concept hatched in the days of network radio worked, and the programming still works. It is entertaining and relatively cheap.
It does not work five nights a week in the same time period! What were they thinking? I know what they were thinking: Saving money.
David Letterman (CBS) immediately benefitted from the Leno Effect, picking up older Leno audience members and others. Letterman shot up to #1. Conan O’Brien, who climbed into the old Leno time slot, is loved by younger audiences, but he is also lagging because of the lingering Leno Effect.
Jay Leno says he’d go back to his old time slot if asked. That isn’t going to happen. The network cast its lot with Conan. What is going to happen is that cable TV giant Comcast is going to buy controlling interest in NBC Universal. That’s the next big thing. It remains to be seen what spins out of that change.
Otherwise, there is little change in the local Austin ratings. KXAN TV remains #1 in the mornings. KVUE TV is #2. KVUE is #1 at 5 and 6, and KXAN is #2 in both time slots. The gyrations in news programming made no difference in ratings. KEYE choice of using Mix 94’s morning crew for a morning show made little headway. Similarly, its 4 p.m. “We Are Austin Live” is near the bottom, and “The Insider” doesn’t seem to work at 5 p.m. KNVA’s CW newscast at 9 barely has an audience, but KTBC TV (Fox) has owned that time slot for years. Still, at #4 KTBC is within three-tenths of a rating point of Jay Leno.
Poor Jay is on the icy, slick downward slope, and he is taking down the late, local news with him here and elsewhere.
© Jim McNabb, 2009