To Save NBC, Rethink Leno Strategy

CEO Jeff Zucker to blame for slump
By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2009 1:30 PM CST
Jay Leno speaks during a panel for "The Jay Leno Show" at the NBC Universal Television Critics Association summer press tour on Aug. 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, file)
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(Newser) – Cable giant Comcast wants to buy a controlling interest in NBC Universal. Sure, the company's movie business and cable channels are appealing, but what about the broadcast network? NBC is floundering, and CEO Jeff Zucker is to blame, Mark Harris writes in New York. One big problem is The Jay Leno Show: "Remaking an entire prime-time lineup in his familiarly peevish image was a Hail Mary pass, not a long-term business strategy."

The pass didn't connect. Leno, which airs five nights a week, gets terrible ratings and takes up time slots that could have held scripted shows, even if they are more expensive. The move is emblematic of Zucker's focus on making money rather than great TV, and there are signs the network knows it. So what would a Plan B look like? Possibilities include "paying off Leno and canceling his show, cutting it back to three or four nights a week or even returning Leno to the Tonight Show," Harris suggests.