“Leno effect” a drag on Gannett’s NBC stations


While he says his company’s NBC affiliates would be doing better in local late news if not for “The Jay Leno Show” as lead in, Gannett CEO Craig Dubow is not yet ready to pass judgment on the NBC programming decision. He told Wall Street analysts it is too early to tell how it will work out.

The “Leno effect” came up in Q&A for Gannett’s Q3 results conference call with analysts on Monday (10/19).

“My sense of it is that right now we would probably be in a little better position with the traditional prime, but it’s awfully early to tell yet,” Dubow said. “From an overall standpoint, when you take a look at that, I think Leno itself is going to give us some opportunities as we move forward. But taking a look at the news, what we must do is be certain that we’re doing everything we can locally. So, it’s again, early on all of this to really tell any impact that we’re going to have in that direction,” Dubow told analysts.

“We’ll see where it goes and keep you posted as we move forward,” he added.

Of its 22 stations in 19 markets, Gannett’s NBC affiliates are: KARE Minneapolis-St.Paul; KPNX Phoenix; KSDK St. Louis; KUSA Denver; WBIR Knoxville; WCSH Portland, ME; WGRZ Buffalo; WKYC Cleveland; WLBZ Bangor; WTLV Jacksonville, FL; and WXIA Atlanta.

RBR-TVBR observation: If not Leno, then presumably NBC would have five other one-hour shows, likely with varying appeal to audiences. Of course, NBC wasn’t so good at appealing to audiences in that 10-11 pm ET time slot last season when it was spending a lot more money to fill that hour.

In the end, you have to think that whether or not NBC sticks with Leno and his lower budget for an hour of primetime leading into late local news is going to be decided by the total impact on the bottom line. If the improved network profits from Leno’s cost structure are more than what NBC Local Media loses in profits from the O&O stations’ late newscasts, then the Leno approach works. If not, then Jeff Zucker or whoever might be running NBC Universal will have to weigh the cost of getting back into competition with more expensive scripted programming.