Reactions to NBC's move to finalize the passing of the Tonight
baton in early 2014 from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon were still filtering in
Wednesday. But at least one prominent buyer landed squarely in the negative
"I think it's a bad move for NBC to do this now,"
says Billie Gold, VP of research and programming at media agency Carat.
"They should have waited till the primetime schedule was rebuilt. They've
got a lot of holes to fill." She added, "Advertisers see a lot of
turmoil at NBC right now. It's the wrong time to shake things up."
Gold said the late night announcement came just after NBC
held a pre-upfront development meeting for media buyers. NBC Entertainment
chairman Bob Greenblatt didn't mention the change during the meeting. "Not
a word," Gold said. "You would think if they were proud of this, it
would have come up."
Another buyer, David Campanelli, senior VP, director of
national television at Horizon Media, says NBC was reacting to realities in the
"I think it's easy to say that NBC is making the same
mistake as last time with Leno and Conan," Campanelli said. "But the
reality is the late night landscape continues to change. Success is not simply
measured in nightly ratings alone. The digital viability of a show, for both
buzz and sell-able assets can make a show a success based on different metrics
than historically measured."
Campanelli says the Fallon announcement will make buying the
Tonight show a challenge. "We [buyers] will need to factor our
projects for Fallon's success into our upfront buying decisions," he says.
"I would assume NBC will sell a Tonight Show ratings estimate for the year regardless of host. But more
than likely, Fallon well end up with a lower rating once things settle in post
Olympics push. That will likely lead to some under-delivery issues, further
tightening the day part for NBC."
Linda Yaccarino, president for ad sales at NBCUniversal,
sees opportunities in selling a victory lap for Leno. "We will be able to
do a lot of exciting things." Yaccarino said. She said reaction to Fallon
hosting Tonight has been enthusiastic, and that Jay will "pass the
torch as No. 1, just as it was passed to him."
Late night, increasingly, is a trophy asset and not a profit
center, certainly compared with the days when Johnny Carson drew tens of
millions of viewers a night. According to data from Kantar Media, ad revenue
for Tonight has fallen from $255 million in 2007 to $146 million in
2012. Even so, the stability and brand pedigree of late night franchises
against a backdrop of constant change in the television business continue to
make them desirable properties for media companies.
Gold says she understands why NBC wants to make this change.
"They want to reach a new generation of 18 to 49 year olds," she
said. "But Leno wins the time period, and I don't know if Fallon will be
able to beat [ABC's] Jimmy Kimmel."
As ratings across the broadcast spectrum keep ebbing, more
advertisers might start looking at cable. "For advertisers looking at 18
to 49, there are now more choices," Gold says.
Campanelli says many of the late-night broadcast viewers
have moved to cable. "Not only to shows like Conan and Daily
Show/Colbert, but also to a network like Adult Swim, which secures
significant adult 18 to 49 ratings each night in the late night hours."
The late night time period as a whole, including
broadcast and cable, "is still a very valuable daypart," Campanelli
says. "However the days of buying only the three networks are long gone. A
holistic buying approach needs to be applied to reach the full potential of the