Here's an article from the New York Times about NBC's Leno move:
A Revolution in Prime Time, but Will It Work?
Then comes the revolution.
NBC’s decision to move Mr. Leno to his own talk show at 10 p.m. in September is not only the signature television event of this season, it may be among the most pivotal changes since the network evening newscasts were expanded to 30 minutes, from 15, in 1963.
If successful, “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. could reshape prime time by leading other networks to move to less expensive shows, pushing more programming to cable and rewriting the financial underpinnings of entertainment production.
If it fails — as skeptics, including many rival network executives, predict — then NBC will be left scrambling to find fill five prime-time hours a week.
Prime time has “looked pretty much the same” for decades, said Robert Thompson, a professor of television at Syracuse University. Pitting a low-cost talk format like Mr. Leno’s show against the typically expensive dramas at 10 p.m., he said, “is the biggest sign yet that we’re really, finally entering a whole new ballgame.”
Those with stakes in Mr. Leno’s success or failure go well beyond NBC executives and Mr. Leno himself. They include the Hollywood production studios; the writers, directors and actors who keep the entertainment engine humming; the image makers who place stars on talk shows; the owners of local stations across the country who depend on inheriting audiences from 10 p.m. shows; and even perhaps the anchors of the ABC news program “Nightline.”
Already, NBC’s competitors have built their new season schedules with Mr. Leno in mind. Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, called the 10 p.m. talk show “a real sea change” for the industry when he unveiled his network’s schedule in New York last month. Seeing an opening to gain audiences at 10 p.m., CBS said it would move its hit “The Mentalist” to Thursdays at 10 p.m. to compete with Mr. Leno.
NBC’s move has also caused planning battles inside ABC, whose 10 p.m. hours have been a string of disappointments in recent years. Although ABC will again fill 10 p.m. with new dramas this fall including “Eastwick” and “The Forgotten,” one ABC employee acknowledged that “Nightline,” the late-night ABC News show, has been talked about as a future 10 p.m. possibility.
Such a move could save money across several days a week and also free ABC to move its own late-night star, Jimmy Kimmel, up to 11:35 to challenge Conan O’Brien on “The Tonight Show” head to head.
At the same time, many TV executives doubt that “The Jay Leno Show” will work. A chorus of entertainment industry executives interviewed in the last two weeks was all but unanimous in predicting NBC’s experiment is wrong-headed and doomed to failure.
“One thing you never do in television is cede territory,” said a senior executive with long experience developing programs for both production companies and networks.
The executive, who asked not to be identified because of continuing business with NBC, said the scripted shows arrayed against Mr. Leno — including “CSI: Miami” on CBS and repeats of “The Closer” on TNT — would all benefit greatly from the move. “If I’m a producer of a scripted show, I would rather be up against Leno than any other form of competition — now and always. It’s like getting a bye in a tennis tournament,” he said.
But that is rooting interest talking. For its part, NBC has marshaled research that shows viewers expressing high interest in seeing Mr. Leno earlier in the evening. Because Mr. Leno’s show will cost less than an equivalent hourlong drama — one-fifth as much, according to the host — it can afford to receive lower ratings, too.
At a 1.8 rating among the young adult viewers that NBC seeks — a prescription for cancellation for a network drama — Mr. Leno “would be a home run,” said Jeff Zucker, the NBC Universal chief executive who engineered the Leno move.
Mr. Leno had been averaging about a 1.3 rating at the 11:30 time slot, when there are fewer viewers to compete for. Scripted dramas that are successful at 10 p.m. tend to average a 2.5 rating or better for first-run episodes, or they do not stay on the air for long.
Both Mr. Zucker and Mr. Leno said in interviews that success will have to be graded over 52 weeks because Mr. Leno will have many more nights of original shows than his competitors.
Mr. Zucker pointed to evidence showing that the most-watched show at 10 p.m. is TiVo, reflecting the number of people who play back shows using digital video recorders. With so many people in playback mode at 10 p.m., NBC suggests topical comedy, delivered fresh every night, would be an attractive alternative.
Beyond the cross-predictions lies a basic truth: the move has grabbed the full attention of the television industry.
“Anytime you lose potential real estate, it isn’t good,” said David Nevins, the president of Imagine Television, one of the business’s most highly regarded production companies, with shows like “24” and “Friday Night Lights.” Like other companies that supply shows to all the networks, Imagine has to be concerned about any shrinking of the network landscape, though Mr. Nevins added, “if by doing this it strengthens their network, then it makes sense for NBC.”
Like NBC, CBS has commissioned research about the move, but it found the results unreliable because, CBS executives said, people cannot be expected to predict accurately how they will react to a still-theoretical program.
Executives in Hollywood are reacting nonetheless. Foremost in the minds of many are concerns about the cultural impact of the reduction in network time available for scripted shows. NBC’s 10 p.m. hour, after all, gave life to “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere” and “ER.”
Depending on Mr. Leno’s performance, other prime-time shuffles may follow. Mr. Thompson at Syracuse said it was likely that if Mr. Leno was “even the least bit successful,” the other networks would consider replacing scripted shows with some form of less expensive programming in the hour.
Cable channels, too, are feeling the ripple effects of Mr. Leno’s move. Executives at Turner Broadcasting, the owner of TNT and TBS, are hoping that Mr. Leno’s arrival in prime time will accelerate the long, steady shift of viewers to cable from broadcast channels and enhance cable’s image as a home for high-quality programs.
The company is predicting that up to 10 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds will migrate to cable this year. Michael Wright, a programmer for Turner, said TNT and TBS “hope to be a safe harbor” for writers and actors.
Already, viewers have heard one small indication of how Mr. Leno thinks things might go. As he joked recently, “The new movie ‘Star Trek’ takes place so far in the future, Conan O’Brien is doing a 10 o’clock show.”