NBC Affils Ready for ‘Leno' at 10

Jay Leno’s highly anticipated 10 p.m. show kicks off Sept. 14, and those with a particular stake in its success–NBC affiliates–seem, for the most part, genuinely excited.NBC affiliates board member Brian Lawlor, Scripps’ senior VP of television, worked with NBC in shaping The Jay Leno Show to build a strong lead-in to late news and says the affiliate input has been unparalleled.

“Everything we could’ve hoped for in terms of development was listened to and reacted to by the producers,” he says.

Stations are promoting Jay in their own ways. The program is being talked up on WSMV Nashville’s local shows, such as Better Nashville. NBC O&O WNBC New York has Jay popping up on its new LX New York program Sept. 14. WNBC VP of Content and Audience Development Vickie Burns says Jay is a natural fit in the #1 DMA. “New York is a comedy town, and Leno is at the top of his game,” she says.

Like network executives themselves, station execs aren’t expecting the five-night strip to beat its scripted-drama competition on ABC or CBS. But they’re prepared to wait for initial sampling to give way to a truer ratings picture. “I think the show will start with a bang,” says WSMV VP/General Manager Elden Hale. “Then it’s a question of whether viewers will continue to watch it.”

But whether or not they think Leno can put up any kind of number against powers like CSI, most agree that NBC has done all it can to promote the new 10 p.m. player.

“All credit to NBC for using all its resources to keep Jay front and center and throwing everything they had at the show the last few months,” says Lawlor. “Awareness is very high–now we just need people to sample it.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.