The ones most likely to suffer in NBC's plan to replace big budget shows (what people historically come to networks for) with a schedule of cheap-o chat shows are the local affiliates. Now they're getting angry.
It's great for NBC that they get to save mountains of production money by churning out Jay Leno Show episodes rather than shelling out to stage cop-show shoot-outs, but one of the biggest pillars on which this whole network affiliates contraption has been based is the lead-in networks providing their local stations for their local news shows. So for NBC the Leno equation works out dandy, with them reaping less ad revenues for Jay vs. a drama (particularly considering the sad state of their recent dramatic launches), but spending far less in production costs. But if you're an affiliate, and big chunk of your revenues comes from nightly local news, the fact that someone else is saving money by lowering your ratings is infuriating.
The canary in the coal mine of this bold experiment has always been how long will the affiliates sit still for this reinventing the broadcast paradigm. And today in the LA Times we get the first hint that the answer may be not much longer.
In the piece, one voice from flyover country makes his feelings about the new era pretty plain:
"I'm not pleased with what Leno is doing. I don't think anybody is," said Craig Allison, vice president and general manager of KSHB in Kansas City, Mo. Allison's late news is off slightly from where it was a year ago, and he's anxious about the months ahead.
"I don't think any NBC affiliate wanted to wake up in the fall with a weaker lead-in to their late news," Allison said.
The piece goes on, however, to make clear that NBC has largely been effective in silencing affiliate opposition by buying them off with extra ad slots that they can sell locally. And then, in good newspapery "to be sure" manner, the article offers up a quote to cancel out the above quote's support of the article's thesis.
We're quite pleased," said Brooke Spectorsky, longtime president and general manager of WKYC in Cleveland. So far the station's news performance is flat compared with a year ago, although there are "still days in which you squirm a little."
The LAT leaves it to us to imagine the gun held to Spectorsky's skull as he recited that line to its reporter.
However, whether the rumblings are perceived or real, if Jeff Zucker, and your GE bosses are currently looking to sell off their entertainment holdings, this is not the moment when you want anyone thinking that your entire operating model is about to come apart at the seams.