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NBC Affiliates Receptive To More Local Primetime Hours

Complete Coverage: UBS Global Media and Communications Conference

UPDATE: Jay Leno Taking Over 10 P.M. On NBC

Reacting to

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker’s comments about perhaps scaling back the network’s primetime programming duties

, NBC affiliates seem receptive to filling the void with local content.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media Summit in New York Monday, Zucker suggested several ways to overhaul the network model, including fewer hours—and maybe even fewer nights—of NBC programming.

Several affiliates welcome the possibility, and said Saturday night seems like a logical place to give local content a shot. NBC affiliates board chairman Michael Fiorile was pleased to hear Zucker raise the possibility. “The affiliates asked NBC to do this last summer,” said Fiorile, who seemed somewhat surprised that Zucker had not brought it up sooner.

Affiliates stressed that producing local programming isn’t cheap, but it is a differentiator in the vast landscape of viewing options. “Our niche these days is localism,” says WSAZ Charleston-Huntington (WV) General Manager Don Ray. “With all the options on the dial—and with those options growing all the time—the opportunity to do more localism [is a positive thing].”

Few NBC affiliates get a substantial boost from the network’s primetime offerings. Zucker, who said the affiliate model was overdue for an upgrade, stressed that NBC wouldn’t be the first to scale back its primetime ambitions. "Can we continue to program 22 hours of primetime? Three of our competitors don't,” he said today. “Can we continue to program seven nights a week? One of our competitors doesn't."

Affiliates said a best-case scenario would see NBC finally deliver some primetime hits. Failing that, expanded local news or local ballgames might hit a higher number than what currently rolls on the weaker nights. “I’d much rather have NBC give me a program with strong ratings,” says KSHB/KMCI VP/General Manager Craig Allison. “But if that doesn’t happen, I think this does present an opportunity. We’ll take it and make lemonade out of it—we know how to do that.”