NYT: NBC to Give Jay Leno New Prime Time Show

According to this New York Times story, NBC will give Jay Leno a new contract for a 10pm est/9pm cst prime time show to air 5 nights a week.  Leno has been hosting the Tonight Show since 1992 on NBC.  This contract will keep Leno from signing with one of NBC’s competitors.  The NYT story reports, “the offer of a new weeknight show for Mr. Leno at 10 p.m., an idea that NBC executives said Monday came from the NBC chief executive, Jeff Zucker, not only allows NBC to retain Mr. Leno€™s services, but also means the network may be able to greatly reduce costs of developing and producing other prime-time shows.”

This new concept may reduce costs to NBC, but what impact will it have on the local stations’ late news?  Prime programming airing prior to the late news can have a strong influence on the local late news viewership.  If this concept brings down the local late news ratings, the affiliates will have to reduce advertising rates to stay competitive, and in turn, revenues will decrease. And vice versa.

Currently, Jay Leno is popular in Memphis on WMC.  During the November 08 sweeps, Leno averaged a 6.1 household rating and 11 share edging out Letterman (5.5/9) on WREG for the top spot.  It will be interesting to see how successful it will be.  If anyone can pull it off, Jay Leno can.