Saturday, November 14, 2009

Leno Loses NBC 1.8M 18-49s, Ad Prices Plunge

Published on November 09, 2009

NBC’s switch from scripted series to a nightly talk show with Jay Leno in the 10pm hour has lost the network 1.82 million, or 49%, of its 18-49 viewers.

And though rival networks CBS and ABC hoped to boost viewership during that hour, the two combined have gained just 83,000 viewers in the same demo: CBS has lost 162,000 in that age group for the 10pm hour, while ABC has added 245,000 for the hour, through Nov. 1, according to Nielsen (via Bloomberg). Fox, meanwhile, which doesn’t compete in the 10pm hour, has seen overall prime time ratings jump 17% from last year, and 19% in the 18-49 demo.

The rest of the audience NBC lost seems to have scattered to cable or, perhaps, the web. But even cable is seeing a stagnation of growth in the 10pm hour, with nightly viewing by 18-49s flat or down for four out of the five nights, according to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

Across all demos, NBC lost 2.4 million, or 30%, of its total viewers in the 10pm hour; CBS and ABC added 859,000 total viewers, or more than a third of the audience NBC lost. Leno now averages 2.25 million 18-49 viewers a night, down from 4.07 million in that hour last year.

Ad rates for the show range from $48,803 (Friday nights) to $65,678 (Tuesday nights) for a :30 spot, compared to as much as $146,679 for the same hour last year, according to AdAge. The lower end of the pricing spectrum is half of what CBS has been getting for rookie drama The Good Wife, and a quarter a :30 spot during Grey’s Anatomy, writes MSNBC.

Leno’s prime time experiment could also be hurting the rest of NBC’s schedule. Take, for example, Law & Order: SVU. The show, at 10pm, was a time slot winner. This season, it’s finishing last at 9pm. And whereas last year SVU commanded $146,679 for a :30 spot, this year it’s pulling an average of $101,632.

Still, GE CFO Keith Sherin said in October that Leno’s audience is exceeding expectations. And, because of the low cost of production for the show, NBC says it will be profitable even if it sinks to a 1.5 rating in 18-49s.

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