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March 27, 2013

Leno to Fox?

NBC is trying to mend fences with Leno. Supposedly it worked, and they won't have another embarrassing talk-show drama on their hands.

Still, Leno doesn't "need the money," as this article says, because he doesn't even spend the money. But he does want to continue being on TV.

So, Fox?

The most obvious next move would be a late-night show on Fox. In fact, according to Bill Carroll, director of programming at Katz Media Group, it's the "only logical place" in syndication. What's more, Fox affiliate board chairman Steve Pruett recently told The New York Post that if the network were to present "the right business plan, the affiliate board would be interested." Still, Fox weighed the option of luring O'Brien when he lost Tonight and ultimately decided it did not make economic sense. Carroll estimates it would cost $100 million to launch a new Leno show.

Fox actually has a deal with Arsenio Hall to start a late night show this fall. To put on Leno, they'd have to bump Arsenio to midnight. So, imagine: We could have another Leno-Hall drama. Everything old is new again!

More interesting in this article, though, is the Decline of the Networks. The Tonight Show used to be a cash bonanza for NBC -- $150 million in profits, per year. Now it's down to $30-40 million. Even though Leno is still the ratings champ, they're dumping him anyway, in a cost-cutting move.

Networks didn't used to do that. They used to be flush enough with money that these things could be negotiated. (Johnny Carson wound up working just 4 nights a week to make his huge contract deal work out for everyone.) But do to declining importance and fewer viewers, they now have to just let top rated guys go.

TV networks are in serious trouble. There is no chance they won't remain major players -- they have a lot of expertise tied up in contracts. And institutions tend to continue on.

But Amazon is going to get into the TV production game, and Netflix already did. Meanwhile cable continues to cut into networks' ratings-- where it was once unthinkable that cable stations could beat the mighty networks, it now happens from time to time.

It will happen more.

Empire of Jeff posted on What This All Means in a comment earlier (when comments were working). It means further cultural balkanization, as specific entertainments (and "news" shows) are specifically tailored for specific tribe... which I'm not sure is such a bad thing.

We have had a shared culture in one area for years -- TV. But that's a pretty shabby medium to share a culture by, isn't it? Not exactly the sort of thing a civilization is proud of.

We've had balkanization in print for years and years and years. Because print was relatively inexpensive (compared to filmed entertainment), the market could easily pump out entertainments and nonfiction with less appeal to a general audience, but much stronger appeal to specific niches of that audience.

And who's to say that's worse?

A year ago Andrew Breitbart made what I thought was an absurd prediction: "In five years, all of this is gone. The media, all of it. Gone." Something like that.

Well, it might not be five years, and it might not be completely gone, but ground is starting to shake beneath us. Plates are shifting. Grand houses may well fall.

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posted by Ace at 05:47 PM

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