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Leno, and the End of the ‘Major Network’ Mind-Set

Variety’s Rick Kissell includes this jaw-dropping statistic in his latest ratings recap regarding the relative competitive standing of “The Jay Leno Show:”

“In part because of baseball making for an additional strong competitor
at 10, ‘Leno’ last week placed sixth in 18-49 on Monday and Wednesday,
fifth on Tuesday and tied for fourth on Thursday. Among the Big Three,
though, the NBC show is competitive with rookie ABC dramas on both
Tuesday and Wednesday.”

For relative old-timers i.e. anyone who remembers when there were actually two guys named “Brandon” simultaneously running broadcast networks — it’s easy to still think of a four-network playing field and a separate (considerably smaller) cable universe. Yet the reality is that on any given night one cable network or another can surpass a broadcast network, and two or three in tandem can do so easily.

What “Leno” has done is hasten this process and level the playing field, making it more possible for a series like USA’s “White Collar” to rival broadcast numbers — both because USA is up and NBC is down.

So while it’s tempting to look at those network rating grids and draw snap conclusions about who’s “winning,” the process — and the competitive playing field — has become far more complicated than that.

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