Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Jay Leno Show and Local Ratings

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


Anonymous said...

The second paragraph about KEYE is the worst written paragraph I have read in years. I read from Calif., am interested in Austin and relatively unfamiliar with the local tv stations. It reads like spaghetti. Awful.

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's Note: It was written in hast, and once again, "Spell Check" failed me. Many times, I've admitted to being a lousy proof reader when it comes to my own stuff. I knew what I meant to say and my brain just fills in the blanks. It's no excuse though.

I wrote "later" instead of "ladder". I also changed a sentence to read that "Austin has" a new #2 station instead of "we have ..." It is better for the audience outside of Austin.

Otherwise, I have no problem with the paragraph.

I appreciate your comments, however, because you helped me make it better.


Anonymous said...

Your reply was written in haste, too, as you meant "haste" instead of "hast". LOL

NewsMcNabb said...


You know when you touch a key and you think that it created a character on Facebook or you add an extra letter and hit "reply"? Then, you see the error of your ways.

Yes, haste makes waste.


Anonymous said...


Please, please, someone take Jay Leno off TV. It's boring to have the same show at 9 p.m. every weeknight. NBC is killing us viewers.

The morning radio show on KEYE is a dog. It needs to go, too.

Anonymous said...

I never cease to be amazed at the utterly stupid decisions TV executives make. Jay Leno - although a nice guy - is a little long in the tooth. The last thing you do after the guy decides to give up the mantle of the venerable "Tonight Show" is reward him with...another show. All they did was create an earlier Tonight Show, and Conan is Tonight Show B. Too saturated.

You mean to tell me that a major American broadcast TV network can't invest in compelling programming?

As for local TV, is it any surprise that KEYE is once again floundering? The JB and Sandy simulcast was a dumb idea. Just because they're good on radio doesn't automatically mean people are going to flock to their TV sets to watch them. And who is surprised that the afternoon lifestyle show is a dog? There was no demand for that at all!

This whole "we're the hip Austin-centric TV option" thing is a bore. Nobody cares.

The Hypervigilant Observer said...

Moving Leno to 9 p.m has freed-up my finish novels.

I regularly tune-in for Leno's opening monologue...and then dump-out until the news. Ditto for O'Brien's monologue...except I usually switch to Letterman, depending on the guest. Yes to Natalie Portman; no, to Travolta or Trump.

For that reason, I usually stay tuned to KXAN...with the Mute on.

I still don't get O'Brien. I guess my demo is showing.

Lex Wadelski

Anonymous said...

People... it's all about the money! Leno was offered a ton of cash to come back to NBC, and in doing so SAVES NBC $$$$. Leno is significantly cheaper to produce than hour long dramas which typically dominate the hour before local news. So although the ratings are down... the bottom line is up. Another note: It does not surprise me to see Leno down during "sweeps"... a time the networks are heavily promoting their shows with cliffhangers, specials, or premiers. I wonder what his numbers look like outside of sweeps when the others are in re-runs?

Anonymous said...

I'm the first anonymous in Calif. Thanks for acknowledging the confusion. I appreciate the correction.

Anonymous said...

It may be "all about the money," but something stinks here. I fully understand that Leno is a money-saving proposition for NBC, but since when is a major TV network more worried about producing content on the cheap?

Where's the pride? Where's the killer instinct to go find the next great TV franchise? Cost savings in business is obviously a smart strategy, but when your business is entertainment, I seriously question whether people more worried about saving money ought to be in that business in the first place.

This is the same stupid mindset that destroyed radio. When you're more worried about consolidation, cost-cutting and producing the cheapest content possible, then it shows in your product. You have lousy product, people stop watching and listening. People stop watching and listening, your revenue drops. Fine. Go ahead and do cheap programming...and lose your audience.

Maybe when some of these TV and radio people stop listening to the bean counters and egghead consultants and go get a set of balls and take a risk on some real programming, fortunes will change.

Anonymous said...

Putting Jay Leno aside, how about this shocking development.

The management of the Dallas Morning News has put a team of sales managers in charge of news editors of the various sections of the newspaper:

From: Mong, Bob
Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4:41 PM
To: Everyone - Al Día; Everyone - Denton RC; Everyone - TDMN; Everyone - Quick; Everyone-Denton Publishing; AH Belo Interactive; AH Belo Technology Dallas
Subject: Memo from Bob Mong and Cyndy Carr

The Dallas Morning News

December 2, 2009


Today we are launching a new business segment structure as the next step toward becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content for our consumers.

To better align with our clients' needs, we will be organized around eleven business and content segments with similar marketing and consumer profiles including: sports, health/education, entertainment, travel/luxury, automotive, real estate, communications, preprints/grocery, recruitment, retail/finance, and SMB/Interactive.

Each segment will be led by a General Manager (GM), a newly-defined role, each reporting to (senior vice president of sales) Cyndy Carr, charged with analyzing and growing the business by developing solutions that meet consumer needs and maximize results for our clients. Their responsibilities will include sales and business development. They will also be working closely with news leadership in product and content development.

Cyndy Carr Bob Mong