NBC is considering returning the 10 pm hour of primetime to local affiliates, a potentially significant tipping point for the legacy broadcast TV model.
Internal discussions at Comcast-owned NBCU have been ongoing for several years, according to a person familiar with the situation, and no concrete decision has been reached. Due to the complex web of contracts with affiliates and advertisers, the earliest possible move would be a year from now.
“We are always looking at strategies to ensure that our broadcast business remains as strong as possible,” an NBC spokesperson said in a statement to Deadline. “As a company, our advantage lies in our ability to provide audiences with the content they love on broadcast, cable and streaming.”
ABC, CBS, and NBC have offered at least three hours of national primetime programming each decade. New challengers such as Fox and The CW arrived on the scene, starving many industry observers because they only broadcast two hours a night. Until a few years ago, The CW also aired nothing on Saturday nights, and then recently went a full seven days a week with programming on Sundays, though the allocation is two hours each night, as it is for Fox.
Nighttime schedules for broadcast networks, especially the Big Three, are beginning to reflect the changing times. Live sports and non-scripted fare are beginning to dominate the grid as popular shows struggle to launch and sustain, largely based on popularity on linear TV. Sports rights are growing rapidly, however, and NBCU holds a piece of the NFL and the Big Ten Conference of colleges. Those deals include provisions for live games to be shown exclusively on streaming, another sign of the times.
Fall 2022 primetime TV grid: Broadcast networks play it safe overall
Reducing the commitment to broadcast primetime hours will ease the financial pressure on NBCUniversal to fund a linear lineup as viewership and pay-TV subscription levels continue to decline. Companies like NBCU are increasingly looking at their entire portfolio, across streaming, linear and other platforms, and managing what they see as the most profitable outcomes. Already, the long-standing practice of investing in pilots and then picking up a few series is beginning to crumble as full-season greenlights have become commonplace in the streaming age.
A restructuring of NBCU’s management shows the strategic direction of things, with longtime sports veteran Mark Lazarus now serving as president of NBCU Universal Television and Streaming. Peacock, the streaming service launched by NBCU two years ago, generated more than $1 billion in ad revenue, the company estimated, in the market ahead of its sale. The lines between broadcast, cable and streaming are becoming increasingly blurred in terms of their respective programming strategies.
While the local TV business faces many of the same challenges as broadcast and cable network owners, stations have been hit hard by political advertising. News programming, which has eroded syndicated fare at many stations in recent years, is cheaper to produce and has proven a reliable ratings draw in many markets, especially as newspapers and radio stations decline.
Nexstar Media Group, the No. 1 owner of local TV stations, recently closed its acquisition of The CW, offering another point of intersection between the local and national TV sectors.
The Wall Street Journal Be the first to report the latest NBC talk.
A situation, accordingly JournalIf NBC goes down, the third hour of primetime will have to be moved Tonight’s show with Jimmy Fallon every night before. Exec said in 2020 that Peacock Premium, the streaming outlet’s subscription tier, would provide early access to both shows in the middle of primetime. The move, which initially caused consternation among some NBC affiliates, has been put on hold indefinitely due to Covid and other reasons, according to Peacock execs.