Last updated: December 10, 2008 - 9:45am
The advertising industry is voicing support for a surprise decision by NBC to give Jay Leno a prime-time weeknight talk and comedy show, although there are questions over how viewers will respond to the risky move. The program, tentatively titled "The Jay Leno Show," would break new ground for programming on a broadcast television network during the lucrative prime-time hours, generally 8 to 11 p.m. That is when advertisers pay top prices — in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — for 30 seconds of commercial time. The show Mr. Leno will host on NBC, part of the NBC Universal division of General Electric, is to be "stripped" from 10 to 11 p.m. each Monday through Friday, beginning in fall 2009. The replacement of more conventional scripted series with a program featuring Mr. Leno, who has been the host of "The Tonight Show" on NBC since 1992, is indicative of how seriously the broadcasters are rethinking longtime business models as mass media fragment and consumers gain unprecedented power to avoid and skip commercials. "The model for network television is basically broken," said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at the GroupM media division of WPP, primarily because of "huge, huge contractions" in the number of viewers who watch scripted prime-time fare. One plus Scanzoni sees is that the skit-and-shtick format of "The Jay Leno Show" would fit a growing trend of viewers being "more inclined to snack on television programs," he said, "instead of digesting them week in and week out." Another appeal of the new Leno show, Spengler said, is the ability to integrate brands and products into the content, which is known as branded entertainment.