In what could be a major shift in the broadcast landscape as it's been known for years, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that NBC is considering ending programming at 10 pm and offering those additional hours to local television stations to program. Sources say the talks are "preliminary" and may not come to fruition (with reportedly no official conversations with NBC's affiliate board on the matter), with Fall 2023 being the earlier window in which such a plan could be implemented. "We are always looking at strategies to ensure that our broadcast business remains as strong as possible. As a company, our advantage lies in our ability to provide audiences with the content they love across broadcast, cable, and streaming," a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.
If the plan does get enacted, what shows will make the cut, and what will be let go? We have to assume that The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon would be making the cut, and the network's scripted dramas could easily work at earlier evening hours. The move comes as the major networks face an uncertain future as cable and streaming continue to erode their viewership numbers. According to the WSJ report, the move would be seen as a cost-cutting one: "By eliminating one hour a night of prime time to schedule, NBC could save tens of millions of dollars in content costs." In addition, the affiliates would have more programming hours to work with (and sell ads for, too). Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, is said to be fronting the discussions over the change to the prime time line-up (already having reduced NBC's late-night presence by eliminating the 1:30 am to 2 am time slot and giving it back to the affiliates. Though sources say that Universal Television (NBC's studio) will still provide content for Peacock and NBCUniversal's cable networks, there are those in the network's entertainment division who are resistant to the change as a losing proposition for both the studio and the streamer.