With viewership and revenues continuing to fall, NBC is looking to cut the number of hours it programs for primetime television.
Under the plan being discussed, NBC would halt its primetime programing at 10 p.m. eastern (9 p.m. central) and hand that following hour each evening over to affiliates to air whatever programing they want, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The decision has not been finalized, but if it does, the network would cancel a full third of the block of time that was once considered TV’s top viewing hours. Such a move would drastically affect the network’s scripted dramas airing in that final primetime hour.
It is unlikely that the plan could kick in any sooner than the fall 2023 season if adopted, according to WSJ.
The paper added that the insiders who spoke to them about the plan said that it was being considered strictly as a cost-cutting measure, as cutting an hour of scripted TV would save them millions annually. It could also be attractive to affiliates who may be able to earn more from ad revenue with the extra evening hour falling under their control.
The Journal also noted that if the plan is put in place, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon could kick off at 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. instead of 11:30. There was no word on how local affiliates who air local news at 11 would take that Fallon move, though.
“We are always looking at strategies to ensure that our broadcast business remains as strong as possible,” a spokeswoman from the network told the Journal. “As a company, our advantage lies in our ability to provide audiences with the content they love across broadcast, cable and streaming.”
Presumably, scripted shows would continue to be produced for NBC’s streaming Peacock Network and the NBCUniversal cable network.
The big three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have seen a massive loss of viewers over the last decade, as streaming has shifted audience habits away from appointment television viewing.
According to stats from Spoiler TV, since 2011 the networks have lost an average of just over 80 percent of their audiences. From 2011 to this most recent quarter in 2022, ABC has lost 81.53 percent of its viewers, CBS has shed 81.32 percent, and NBC has lost 73.74 percent. As to Fox and the CW, they have lost 70.49 and 86.96 percent respectively.
Chopping an hour of primetime TV, though, speaks to how much less power and influence network TV now has compared to the golden age of television.