NBC Makes Historic Scheduling Change

You can read the particulars at all the big and small TV industry websites (Broadcasting & Cable, The Hollywood Reporter, TV Week, TV Guide, Variety) but the tall and short of it is simply this: NBC has announced it will give its 10-11PM time slot to Jay Leno starting some time next year. In other words, Jay Leno will helm a talk show five days a week, effectively cutting back the network’s output from fifteen hours Monday through Friday to ten hours. The New York Times calls the move a “novelty” while Variety points out that NBC has twice considered “stripping” a 10PM non-scripted program.

Reading about what I’m certain will be seen as a “historic” scheduling change on the part of NBC (whether history will be kind to the concept depends on how the Nielsen numbers pan out) led me to wonder when was the last time one of the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) actually aired the same program five nights a week, Monday through Friday? In the late 1940s and early 1950s when the networks and commercial television were still in their infancy it wasn’t uncommon for programs to be shown ever weeknight. Airing the same program Monday/Wednesday/Friday was also fairly routine. But these were mostly fifteen-minute shows and were variety or talk shows.

For eight weeks in the summer of 1949, NBC aired a fifteen-minute version of Mary Kay and Johnny Monday through Friday from 7:15-7:30PM. And for many years in the early 1950s DuMont broadcast Captain Video five nights a week, at times even six nights a week, expanding to include Saturdays. I’m sure there must be other examples of scripted programs shown five nights a week but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

For a few years in the mid-1960s serialized half-hour programs were all the rage and at one point ABC was showing Peyton Place three times a week (other twice weekly offerings included Batman, Shindig and Dr. Kildare — I’m sure there’s a Television Obscurities article somewhere in this) but the trend died out quickly. As many of the articles on NBC’s announcement mention, daytime soap operas are shown five days a week. MyNetworkTV made an ill-fated attempt to bring the daily, serialized soap opera to prime time during its first season on the air (2006-2007).

The last time a scripted network series was shown more than once a week on a regular basis that I can think of was NBC’s Committed, which ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two weeks in January of 2006 before settling down to once a week. However, game shows and news magazines are often shown two or three times a week (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Deal or No Deal, Dateline). I’m willing to make the bold prediction that Jay Leno’s new daily talk show will do well during its first week on the air, and certainly its premiere should attract many interested viewers. How the second week will perform is another matter.

11:04PM Update

I thought something was different about The New York Times‘s article. As I was writing this, article on the paper’s website changed. It used to contain the following sentence:

No broadcast network has ever before offered the same show in prime time five nights a week.

That sentence was replaced with this one:

Running the same show in prime time five nights a week would be a novelty for a broadcast network.

TVbytheNumbers has the original line. I thought I was imagining things.

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3 Replies to “NBC Makes Historic Scheduling Change”

  1. ABC aired three nights of “THE DICK CAVETT SHOW” in prime-time during the summer of 1969, before he replaced Joey Bishop in late-night that December.

  2. NBC has to do something as a lead in for the Tonight Show (Local News aside) because Conan is killing the Golden Goose (Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, and Steve Allen are rolling in there graves)

  3. When a radio network began “stripping” a series five nights a week in prime-time in the ’50s, that meant the beginning of the end of the “golden age of radio”. By 1953, NBC realized they were losing most of their “prime-time” radio audience to television, and eliminated “traditional” half-hour programming at 10pm(et) that fall to present back-to-back weeknight 15 minute editions of “FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY” and “CAN YOU TOP THIS?” at 10pm- later, a 15 minute version of “THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE” replaced “CAN YOU TOP THIS?” in mid-season, but went off at the end of the season. The network then programmed news and commentary programs to “fill” the 15 minutes following “FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY” until their series ended in March 1956.

    In the fall of 1954, CBS Radio decided to replace whatever they were scheduling at 9pm(et) weeknights to present a nightly 15 minute interlude featuring Bing Crosby, paired with various 15 minute musical “interludes” (including Rosemary Clooney in 1954-’55). By 1955, Bing had moved to 7:30pm(et)- just before Edward R. Murrow’s nightly newscast- and the network just about abandoned “traditional” series after 9pm in favor of music and news programs [although Jack Carson had a weeknight half-hour comedy/variety series at 9 in 1955-’56].

    Then, in the fall of 1955, NBC decided to scuttle all of their weekend programming to present “MONITOR”, a multi-hour “magazine” show that aired from Saturday morning through Sunday night (with time out for “GRAND OLE OPRY” on late Saturday and some religious programs on Sunday). This “service” lasted 20 years, and affiliates had the option of carrying all of it, or portions of it…that was the beginning of the end of “traditional radio”, as the last of the “big entertainers” [Bob Hope, Jack Benny, “THE LONE RANGER”, Edgar Bergen, et. al.] that had “held on” as radio’s nightly listening audience was declining, quietly left radio in 1955 and ’56.

    Jay Leno is the beginning of the end of NBC’s “traditional” service of dramatic (and other) programs on their weeknight TV schedule at 10pm. And on weekends, what do they have? Repeats on Saturday night, and football on Sunday.
    Get the idea?

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