NBC’s big Leno gamble isn’t a huge risk

In about an hour, the next step in Jay Leno’s career begins with his new series. Every weeknight at 10 p.m. viewers will get a dose of Leno — if they’re tuned to NBC. Chances are viewers will be tuned to another channel or doing something else entirely.

Clearly there’s been a lot of talk about whether “The Jay Leno Show” reflects the changing reality of television or if it will crash and burn. Newsweek’s Pop Vox blog has some insight and how results might end up being mixed.

While I lament the loss of potentially five hours of scripted television, I never really thought that NBC was taking that huge of a risk by airing Leno five nights a week. As others have helpfully pointed out, producing Leno’s show is likely a lot cheaper than filming an hour-long drama. The downside is that these cheaper shows may not have the same rating draw as a drama.

Also, the “Jay Leno Show” isn’t necessarily a revolutionary move on NBC’s part. After all, it was nearly 20 years ago when NBC and the other networks used cheaply produced newsmagazines to plug in gaps in their schedules.

I don’t think NBC ever aired “Dateline NBC” five nights a week on a consistent basis, but it certainly felt like it on some weeks.

We’ve seen networks try to save money amid increasing competition with regularly scheduled and cheap newsmagazines. This is just another link in the chain.