Goodbye, 10 P.M. Hour Of Network Primetime? CBS And ABC Will Follow NBC’s Lead And Hand It Back To Local Stations, Hearst TV Chief Expects – NAB NY

Say goodbye to the 10 p.m. hour of network-controlled broadcast television.

That was the consensus among a panel of local station chiefs interviewed at NAB Show New York, including NBCUniversal Local Chairman Valari Staab. Her company has stunned the industry in recent weeks by confirming it is actively considering handing back the hour to stations, giving her division what she calls “a different sandbox” to explore. Asked if he expects other media giants to follow NBCU’s lead, Hearst Television chief Jordan Wertleib replied, “I expect they will and I hope they will.”

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Wertleib and Staab said media companies are reckoning with the fact that in a world of secular ratings decline, with streaming services controlling the largest chunk of scripted TV viewing and attention, the economics of programming three hours every night make decreasing sense. (Other broadcast nets Fox and The CW have never had the full three hours.) Not only would the expense of programming and promoting an hour of primetime be eliminated, but the media companies could also benefit via their owned stations, as would major stand-alone groups like Hearst.

“Valari made a good point and it applies to all the networks,” Wertleib said. “Take those resources and invest it in a really strong 8 to 10 block and the entire ecosystem improves.”

NBCU CEO Jeff Shell, in an interview with CNBC this month, said no final decision has been made but confirmed that the company is committed to “reallocating resources” to make the most of the current environment.

Asked what might go in a 10 p.m. hour controlled by her division, Staab said “it will definitely look probably different than a traditional newscast, but it’s a huge opportunity for us across the board.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO Chris Ripley didn’t go into detail about his company’s expectations, but he didn’t mince words when describing the landscape. “Streaming has gutted the general entertainment and cable networks,” he said. “Literally gutted them. When you take a look at that, the core strength of the pay-TV bundle is live, day-and-date content, which is the strength of broadcast. Within the ecosystem, I think broadcast TV will continue to do quite well.”

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