How the mighty have fallen. We knew things were bad at NBC, with ratings falling right along with the economy, but we didn't know quite how bad. Heads are rolling over at the Peacock, with some high-ranking executives getting axed, along with 3% of the company's 15,000-person workforce. But the network might not be done with it's slicing-and-dicing. Rather than actually try to come up with shows people want to watch, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker has announced that the network is considering just cutting back on the hours--or even the number of nights--it provides programming. From the AP:
"Can we continue to program 22 hours of prime-time? Three of our competitors don't. Can we afford to program seven nights a week? One of our competitors doesn't," Zucker said. "All of these questions have to be on the table. And we are actively looking at all of those questions."
Part of the problem at NBC has to do with the economic crisis and slowdown in advertising revenue in a market that is "as difficult as any we've seen," Zucker said. "Businesses are just afraid to commit."
Er... especially to crappy shows.
Really, NBC. The only thing you've got going over there is a lady called Tina Fey, whose 30 Rock may not end up seeing any ratings bounce from Fey's game-changing Palin impersonation. (Debra disagrees with me, saying the show continues to make her "snort Coke through her schnoz", but I feel like the brilliant, giddy edginess of the show's first season--swastika sparklers, anyone?--has seeped out surprisingly quickly, with the show already entering a jump-the-shark phase of hokey guest stars and characterization missteps.) Heroes has become so jaw-droppingly terrible I'm embarrassed I ever watched it, and even the usually-chuckle-inducing Molly Shannon is completely at sea in the nonsensical Kath & Kim, which is itself the only new Fall show that's survived this far. Sorry, Knight Rider.
Cutting back on broadcasting hours is so WB, but then again, maybe NBC could make the best of it. Say they managed to whittle down the schedule to one night a week: they could just pull out that old "Must See TV" slogan again. Wonk.
[Update] Whoa, look at that. The New York Times reports that NBC is planning to hold onto the about-to-jump-ship Jay Leno by giving him, basically, a half-hour version of the Tonight Show, except at 10pm every weeknight. It's the first time any network will feature a nightly show in that time slot. Conan O'Brien is slated to take over the actual Tonight Show in May, 2010, with "comic nonentity" Jimmy Fallon jumping onto Conan's old Late Night. But Leno had been making noises about heading to a competitor, so the network has apparently created a weeknight schedule that just shifts everything up, effectively lopping a couple hours off their weekly programming roster, as we just discussed. Wonder how Conan feels about this?