Saturday, January 9, 2010

Don’t blame Leno for low News ratings

The dust has finally settled at NBC and only two weeks ago, I found myself finally settling into a routine where I’d watch about five minutes of Jay Leno’s monologue at 10 o’clock before drifting off to sleep. About a year ago at this time, I’d be watching, you guessed it: News.

Local news stations blame Leno’s new time slot for their viewer ratings drop and want Leno moved – again. Ratings drops mean advertising sales drops. The local NBC affiliate stations imagine that if Leno is moved back to 11:35, viewers will once again choose to watch their local broadcast of the 10 o’clock news and all will once again be right with the world.

However, a lot has changed in only one year and I don’t think things will work out quite as these local affiliates hope.

More viewers now have cable

The first major change which occurred roughly one year ago was the switch from analog broadcast to digital broadcast. We viewers all had to suddenly go out and buy a special antenna or cable! Gasp! Many of the diehard “I’ll never get cable” viewers were suddenly out of gas. It was cable or nothing in some cases.

With cable comes all sorts of wonderful channels, including one of my favorites, 24-hour local news. At any time, day or night, if I want to know what is happening in my neck of the woods, I can turn to Channel 13 Brighthouse news (here in Orlando) and find out the weather forecast, traffic jams, crime, sports, and events. There is no longer any need for me to wait for the local 5 o’clock news, the 6 o’clock news, or even the 10 or 11 o’clock news. It’s covered when I want to see it, even at, say, 9 o’clock.

In addition, along with cable, we former cable-less viewers suddenly have any number of television schedule choices available from ESPN, Lifetime, Oxygen, the History Channel, TCM, MTV, FXM, and one of my favorites HGTV. That 10 o’clock news broadcast is looking less and less appealing. Perhaps a rerun of Three’s Company, the Jefferson’s, Friends or Seinfeld would get more viewers on these local stations.

Nothing I want to watch on the news

What else happened one year ago? The presidential election. Everyone was perched on the edges of their easy chairs to see who would win the election and how President Obama would handle his first few days in office – hence the reason I myself watched news every night at 10 o’clock.

The third reason I believe that no one is watching the news is our bad economy. With about 20 percent of the nation unemployed (including all of us who don’t receive unemployment), who wants to be further depressed by watching the news? Are you going to tell me that a big corporation is hiring down the street? I doubt it. You’re going to tell my more bad news – less jobs, higher unemployment, higher gas and food prices, more crime, car accidents, people fighting over healthcare, terrorist attacks, etc. Yep, this is just what I need to watch at 10 o’clock before I go to sleep – not!

Programming mis-match

Finally, look at the lineup on CW in the 7, 8, and 9 o’clock slots before the 10 o’clock news. One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, Supernatural, 90210, Smallville and Melrose Place have strong followings among teens and young adults. These are not the type of viewers who want to follow up their evenings watching a local news broadcast.

Let’s pretend Leno is moved back to 11:35. If you think I’m watching him at 11:35, you’re mistaken. First off, on nights when I’m actually up that late, I’ll be watching Letterman, who I used to watch before Conan was moved into that slot. That’s right – I like Conan over Letterman. Leno ranks third with me and most of the kids in my generation.

At 10 o’clock, I’ll be watching South Park on the Comedy Channel, King of the Hill on Cartoon Network, Married with Children on TV Land, or an Orlando Magic game on FSN. If something is happening in the world, I’ll watch Nancy Grace on HLN or Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. What I won’t be watching is local news on CW, my local NBC affiliate here in Orlando.

However, at 7 o’clock in the morning on Saturday, I will be watching cartoons on CW. Why not air Winx and Spectacular Spiderman cartoons at 10 o’clock PM? Now, I would watch that!