Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Jay Leno Effect: Eyeballs Bail on Broadcast for Cable

NUP_133173_0230When you sit down to watch TV at night (which you are still doing an awful lot of, no matter how much Web time you’re logging), you don’t distinguish between shows that are on broadcast TV and those on cable. You just want to watch TV.

But TV executives and advertisers haven’t caught up with you. Advertisers still pay less for a cable TV eyeball than for one watching something from a broadcaster. And programmers still cling to the belief that a broadcast TV viewer has different habits from someone watching cable.

Makes no sense, but there’s a lot about old media that doesn’t make sense and that takes a long time to change. Worth remembering as you watch ad dollars trickle ever so slowly to the Web.

Still, maybe this will help the industry figure it out. Look what happened when GE’s (GE) NBC replaced its 10 pm dramas with Jay Leno. For some reason, executives at CBS (CBS) and Disney’s (DIS) ABC figured viewers who liked to watch stuff like “ER” or even “Southland” would automatically move over to their offerings.

But as Pali Capital’s Rich Greenfield (registration required) points out, citing data from MediaLife, NBC’s viewers didn’t move to other broadcasters when they didn’t like what they saw at 10 pm. They went to the cable guys:

The cable network original programming push continues to gain momentum, with the notable increase in overall cable network ratings at 10 pm so far this TV season likely leading to even more significant programming investment in the year ahead–cannot be viewed positively for broadcast networks as higher quality original cable programming will drive continued viewer fragmentation.

While originally we expected networks such as TNT (TWX) and F/X (NWSA) to be the prime beneficiaries of the Leno move on NBC as they focus on 10pm dramas similar stylistically to what NBC used to air at 10pm, we believe the impact has been quite fragmented, helping a wide array of cable networks that air original programming at 10pm (including networks owned by DIS, DISCA, SNI, VIA/B).

And here, to underscore the point quite nicely, is broadcast’s Jay Leno interviewing the cast of cable’s “Jersey Shore,” the MTV show that, for better or worse, is one of this year’s big hits:

(Quasi-apology for making this the second “Jersey Shore” clip on All Things D today. But then again, The Situation is The Situation.)


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”