NBC’s 10 PM Falls Below ‘Jay Leno Show’ As Networks Grapple With Erosion In The Hour

Was NBC onto something after all with its Jay Leno primetime experiment? Because for the current fourth week of the season, NBC’s new Monday-Thursday 10 PM lineup is poised for the first time to fall below the rating levels of the ill-fated Jay Leno Show for the same week a year ago.

Based on Live+same day ratings for Monday-Thursday, which include live viewing and same-night DVR viewing, as well as fast nationals for Friday, NBC is averaging a 1.595 rating among adults 18-49 at 10 PM this week. A year ago, The Jay Leno Show averaged a 1.642 for the same week in Live+same day. And that is despite the fact that, after NBC’s new 10 PM shows tied Leno last week, NBC boosted significantly its Friday performance in the hour by replacing poorly-rated new legal drama Outlaw with Dateline, going up from a 0.9 to 1.3 in the 18-49 demo this Friday.

For its entire three-week run on Fridays, Outlaw rated well below The Jay Leno Show. The Apprentice, stuck at a 1.3 at 10 PM on Thursdays for the past 3 weeks, also has been running lower than Leno by a wide margin. This week, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced new NBC drama Chase on Monday joined them, dipping below Leno levels with a 1.5. On Tuesday, 10 PM drama Parenthood logged a 2.0 this week, up .2 from Leno’s delivery in the hour last year, but the two were tied last week. On Wednesday, Law & Order: Los Angeles (1.9) was only .1 higher than Leno, and, with 2 consecutive week-to-week drops of more than 20%, the Law & Order spinoff is on track to slip below Leno next week.

Of course, the picture will change when using Live+7 ratings, which reflect viewers’ DVR use for up to a week after a show’s original airing. Last year, only 2 of the 5 Jay Leno shows during premiere week got a small DVR bump, 6%. This year, all 5 NBC 10 PM shows airing in Jay Leno Show‘s slot got a 20%+ boost, led by Parenthood with 36%. But those shows’ C3 ratings – an indication how many viewers watch the commercials during a show, something advertisers use as base to set ad rates – are relatively low. In fact, there is no 10 PM show on any network in the Top 10 of the recently released C3 rankings for this year’s premiere week. There are only 2 in the top 20 – CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 (No. 13) and The Mentalist (No.20). This is another reason for concern for the broadcast networks who are facing big ratings erosion at 10 PM. For the first 3 weeks of the season, CBS, the strongest network by far this fall, is down 13% year-to-year at 10 PM to a 2.8. (It is still well ahead of the competition, winning the 10 PM hour on 16 of 19 nights in 18-49, and 18 of 19 in total viewers). ABC, which has been in a free-fall with a string of misfires this season, is down 22% to a 2.1, only .2 ahead of third-place NBC. Given its very low benchmark with Leno last fall, NBC is slightly up, 6%, but that margin is quickly shrinking as the network’s performance slides down each week.

Why such big declines? Some point to CBS’ and ABC’s scripted series facing scripted competition from NBC in the hour vs. The Jay Leno Show last year (though NBC has The Apprentice on Thursdays and just subbed cancelled new drama Outlaw with Dateline on Fridays). Then we have the much talked about heavy DVR use in the 10 PM hour when people are said to be catching up on programs they recorded at 8 PM and 9 PM. Indeed, the PUT (people using television) levels at 10 PM have slipped 3% in the 18-49 demo from last year. (And no, younger viewers are not simply migrating to basic cable, their PUT levels are slightly down too). But can such a small PUT drop account for the double-digit declines for ABC and CBS in the hour? And while DVR penetration in the pool of homes Nielsen uses to calculate its ratings is at 38% this fall, up from 33% a year ago, the percentage lifts shows get from week-long DVR viewing this season appear similar to last fall’s. One of the most DVR-ed 10 PM series, CBS’ Mentalist, added 29% to its Live+same day demo rating for premiere week this year in Live+7. Last year, the boost was 29%. The increase for CBS’ other hot DVR performer, new Monday 10 PM drama Hawaii Five-0 (28%) was was identical to how much last year’s CBS Friday 10 PM drama Numbers (28%) went up, with the boost of this year’s CBS 10 PM freshman The Defenders in line with the percentage increases for 10 PM dramas CSI: Miami and CSI: NY last year.

I’m not sure there is an easy explanation for the case of disappearing viewers at 10 PM. And I think there may have been something in NBC’s idea of launching a DVR-proof, less-expensive show in the hour. But as they say in Hollywood, it all comes down to execution. And that’s one area where NBC brass definitely got it wrong with Leno.

Comments (112)

  • Hey Nellie,

    Great article. I think however there’s another possibility: It’s possible that people just watch CBS now. It’s been strong for so long that it’s become America’s network. NBC has been weak for so long I just think people aren’t willing to give it too much of a chance. If ‘the Mentalist’ were on NBC it would probably been in your article as a failing show. If ‘Chase’ or ‘The Event’ were on CBS I wonder how it would do. Those shows are put together very well and the acting and characters aren’t any worse than other show. If these genres are your cup of tea there’s no reason not to watch it — Other than it’s on NBC.

    Comment by RTT — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:11am PDT  
    • Agree 100% with what you said. I think if those shows were on another network they would be doing a lot better, NBC as a network is just a huge fail.

      Comment by Austin — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:32am PDT  
    • They should just have a show at 10:00 that makes fun of Blacks, Jews, Indians, and Serbs/Croatians, plus Americans trying to figure out backwards foreigners in their dirty country after losing their jobs.

      Why does the poor taste joke in The Dilemma get a pass, but 30 minutes of laughing at another culture, well that’s okay?

      Comment by angl — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 11:08am PDT  
      • “Why does the poor taste joke in The Dilemma get a pass, but 30 minutes of laughing at another culture, well that’s okay?”

        Try reading that last sentence again, and ask yourself if it even makes sense.

        Comment by Fremen — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 3:24pm PDT  
        • Actually i understood what he was trying to say. Comparing the controversy over the use of the word “gay” to “Outsourced,” an entire series dedicated to making fun of Indians. If it doesnt make sense to you, there are doctors you can talk to…

          Comment by Mr. Rod — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 4:36pm PDT  
    • NBC is a left wing / DNC / Obama sucking up network.

      And that is sooooo 2008.

      Comment by Bruce — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 5:35pm PDT  
      • You think a network owned by one of the nation’s largest defense contractors (GE) is a left-wing bastion? What have you been drinking?

        NBC is as centrist as it comes. Some of its primetime shows have some progressive elements, but some have some conservative elements. It’s a wash.

        MSNBC does have a few hours of liberal programming a day, out of a 24-hour lineup. But that’s about it.

        Comment by Mike — Monday October 18, 2010 @ 11:46am PDT  
    • Great points. Which is really sad because most of CBS’ shows are really not good as more deserving shows.

      Comment by Sourabh — Monday October 18, 2010 @ 7:38am PDT  
    • You’re right. The problem is NBC, but not because people dislike the network. Rather, it’s because no one wanted a variety show at 10pm. The ill-conceived “Jay Leno Show” at the 10pm hour broke the trust with viewers who were faithful NBC drama followers. With kids going to bed later in this generation than previous ones, the 10pm slot is the only one where viewers can indulge in some good adult drama. Once NBC changed formats, viewers sought respite in the offerings of other networks. And, since NBC stuck with Jay for an entire season, the viewers became wedded to their new shows. It’s hard (and expensive) to win viewers back.

      Fortunately for NBC, shows like “Parenthood” have strong casts and storylines. The smart move for the network would be to find a home for “Parenthood” and not do the bonehead thing of day/time slot roulette. The most aggravating thing is to turn on your TV and find that your favorite show has been switched to a different night. The even more aggravating thing is to find that favorite show has been placed opposite another favorite show on a different network. Don’t force the viewers to choose or you will surely lose.

      Bottom line: NBC has to build back up the trust with its audience and quit pandering. That would be a great start.

      Comment by Kimberly Krautter — Monday October 18, 2010 @ 1:36pm PDT  
  • Great article – but I think its that these shows are terrible. We all know that NBC has lost its way and everyone there is just biding time until the merge. Development there was pretty bad (see what’s waiting in the wings) and the pickups worse. Network TV is not dead – it just needs to become relevant to viewers again. CBS’ brand works and people watch it. Yes, some shows there have eroded – isn’t that just the natural course of things? The minute that everyone realizes that 18-25 year olds don’t have disposable income and are not the arbitrators of the nation’s taste levels then perhaps the studios and networks will realize what CBS seems to have figured out already – get the numbers not the demos.

    Comment by smartman — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:17am PDT  
    • Agree 100%. As long as the networks continue dismissing viewers outside of the “target” demos, it’s going to continue to erode.

      Comment by TJ — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:50am PDT  
      • Totally agree. Falling broadcasters like to say less people are watching TV but that is not what sites like TVbyTheNumbers are saying, more people are watching.

        It isn’t TV that is broken but the ratings system(not the Nielsen system but the total focus on demo) which no longer apply to today’s TV landscape. Go back at scheduling TV shows for the largest audience and you will get them all, young, middle age, old, man, women, kids.

        Comment by Dave — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 10:12am PDT  
      • Agreed and we are on the cusp of a “Moneyball” revolution. I think Moonves understands how much money he is getting from drug companies/brands like Viagra (patent expires in 2012) that must by their nature target older viewers, particularly older men, to buy their product while its still profitable (i.e. exclusive patent holder).

        If you want to know why Tom Selleck is headlining Blue Bloods, and had all those Jessie Stone TV movies, there’s your answer. The money from Viagra, Levitra, Cialis etc is even greener than from Pantene.

        The nation is older. Drugs targeting them are lucrative sponsors. The audience delivered to those sponsors is lucrative.

        Up against that, though, are decades of substandard “meat and potatoes” TV done poorly. Bad basic fare driving away profitable viewers.

        Moonves at least understands how much money he is making off drug ads. I doubt anyone at NBC, ABC, or FOX has any idea of how profitable that audience can be.

        Comment by whiskey — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 3:43pm PDT  
        • “whiskey” makes a good point – the 18-25 demos, particularly men, are better served on other nets; check out the demos of women on MTV e.g. Network TV should be aging up 25-49 e.g., and THEY are the ones spending on drugs, movies, cars, etc. that make esp. Thursday night so attractive.

          Comment by F. — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 5:28pm PDT  
    • I think how NBC really screwed themselves last year was by giving all 5 days of the 10pm time slot to Jay. Audiences are used to variety during the primetime hours, not the same face on their TV every single day.

      They would’ve been better served having Jay on during one of their weaker nights, say every Friday. That way audiences wouldn’t have been overloaded with monolouging comedians for half the night every single day and NBC wouldn’t have lost so many of their viewers to other networks.

      But I guess hindsight is always 20/20.

      Comment by G — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 1:08pm PDT  
    • The Event and Chase aren’t bad shows, but they could and should have more of a bite to them – especially Chase. The one thing that makes network TV bad is the failure to be able to go for the jugular vein. Not that network needs to be . Also, did NBC really think L&O: LA was going to be a winner? The format has been beat to death with three other incarnations, it would have been a better more to try something more compelling at 10pm, you have a little more leeway to make more mature shows.

      Also, with the rupturing of the economy, are people still brand loyal in their 30s, 40s and 50s? And yeah, 18 – 25 don’t even have jobs these days, so why aim shows (My Generation) at them?

      Comment by Ras The Exhorter — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 5:04pm PDT  
  • maybe APA should take over NBC?

    Comment by anonymous — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:18am PDT  
  • Big mistake was moving SVU back to 9:00 as it did when Leno was on. It has always been a 10:00 show.

    Comment by Lori — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:24am PDT  
    • NBC didn’t learn from last year mistake. L&O:SVU cannot compete with Criminal Minds. Too much of SVU audience is like the CM audience, I know, I watch CM live and will watch SVU via DVR eventually when I have the time.

      if NBC were smart they would move SVU on Tuesday night at 10:00, it would do well against The Good Wife.

      Comment by Dave — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 10:18am PDT  
  • Or, you could still blame a bit of it on The Jay Leno Show. The viewers who disappeared from NBC at that hour last year could well have established different viewing habits by becoming engrossed in CSI, etc., on the other nets.

    Comment by JonnyQ — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:24am PDT  
    • agree completely. they lost boatloads of viewers when they did that, and you don’t get them all back overnight. you have to actually come up with good (or at least entertaining) programming to win back viewers.

      Comment by dree — Monday October 18, 2010 @ 10:51am PDT  
  • TEAM CONAN!

    Comment by rfk — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:24am PDT  
  • I notice the picture of Jay shows his jacket lapel without his trademark flagpin. Why would NBC do this? As a flag-waving Fox News-addicted imbecile, I want answers.

    Comment by Fox News-Addicted Imbecile — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:25am PDT  
  • TOLDJA! ;)

    Comment by Bill G — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:26am PDT  
  • Could it be that the content just sucks? Could it be that people are tired of lame shows that don’t challenge them?

    Zucker fzucked the network (and TV itself) by doing the Leno thing. If you tell your audience that you don’t respect their intelligence, they’re going to leave. It’s called killing trust.

    Comment by Or — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:28am PDT  
    • You’re on the right track. Here’s the elephant in the room: a lot of people were so turned off by what Zucker and Leno pulled last January that they decided they were done with all NBC programming until the parties responsible were gone. I know LOTS of people who feel this way. And not just Conan fans. People who believe in fairness. Oldtime Tonight Show fans like my parents. LOTS of people. What happened was so underhanded and devious it turned my stomach. When both Zucker and Jay are gone I’ll give NBC another chance. Until then, forget it.

      It’s too bad because I’m curious about The Event and a few other shows. But I won’t watch ‘em.

      Comment by Mark C. — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 1:18pm PDT  
  • Has anyone figured out that maybe, just maybe, that these shows are just bad? The Big Three are the last to realize that there are too many other viewing options out there in the cable/sat universe to waste one’s time on a formulated or rehashed tv series. These shows are neither smart nor hip. All of these development execs need to have a forced vacation for a year, travel the country so that they can reconnect with regular people. Maybe then can they choose better shows to produce. If you are a development exec, agent, producer, writer and you’ve been in your office on a lot, in Hollywood for the last 5 to 10 years with no break… your taste for what’s good, who’s good, is probably just really off by a few “ratings points”.

    Comment by b.rich — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 9:37am PDT  
    • You are dead on. But as long as the agencies are able to sell the same crapola to their college buddies who work in development nothing will change. Nikki’s site is proof of that. Every day there are two or three articles about lame shows getting bought and picked up and 50 comments from industry insiders cheering them on. “Bob is a great guy and a true original. So glad NBC picked up his remake of the Mighty Ducks featuring Vampires versus Zombies. “

      Comment by bill — Sunday October 17, 2010 @ 6:16pm PDT  
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