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In what is seen as a ground-breaking move, NBC affiliates will play a part in creating the 10 p.m. Jay Leno show that debuts in the fall.

One of the things to come out of the affiliates meetings in New York yesterday and today is that the affiliates will assemble what’s being described as a “working group,” comprised of two or three individuals, to consult on the Leno program. The affiliates’ primary concern with the as-yet untitled show is that it will lose audience toward the end, as The Tonight Show does, and dampen their late-news lead-ins.

“There’ll be a working group to help build the show and structure the show with the network,” said board chairman Michael Fiorile, the CEO of Dispatch Broadcast Group.

Post-Newsweek Stations President/CEO Alan Frank will be within that group. Fiorile could not recall another example of the affiliates having that degree of formal input in a new program.

The meetings, NBC’s annual end-of-year sessions, did well to mollify affiliates who were still anxious from yesterday’s front-page announcement. “We came away feeling a lot better about [the Leno show] than when we arrived,” said Fiorile, who described the affiliates’ mood toward the revamped primetime strategy as “cautiously optimistic.”

Attendees said NBC Universal President/CEO Jeff Zucker and NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman took considerable pains to explain their Leno strategy, and reiterated their commitment to developing hit scripted programs, despite NBC airing five less hours of scripted TV each week in prime when Leno moves in.

“NBC clearly put a lot of thought into this,” says board member Brian Lawlor, who’s VP of Sales at Scripps.  

While other topics, such as the Olympics and news, were discussed, Leno dominated the conversation. “It’s a bold move,” says Fiorile. “We’re pleased to not lose Leno, but we want to make sure the show is structured right so it builds up to 11 p.m. and people aren’t going to bed on us.”

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.