With Leno’s debut in a few short hours at the 10PM slot on NBC, there are a myriad of questions that observers are going to look to answer. Of course, first and foremost, is whether or not audiences will be receptive to a stripped comedic variety show at the 10 o’clock time-slot. Can Leno draw the a significant audience to make the strategy pay off for NBC. Does such a move alter the landscape in that late night television has just been redrafted, or in fact has the time come during primetime on the national stage for a variety program like Leno’s that will give the country something to laugh at in unison.
At the same time, the introduction of the program, comes at the cost of five hours of programming per week, which is often filled by highly produced and expensive dramas, or investigative news programs. So, to some extent the question which will be harder to answer is what will the impact be on those arenas. Will NBC slash its news magazine budgets, will programs like Dateline continue to exist during other day-parts, or might NBC scale back in those arenas. Similarly, will there be some shifting in the 10PM drama, which may send programs to other networks, or translate into opportunities for growing cable networks like TNT or FX.
One thing is for sure; the introduction of this type of program is a new and unique approach to programming on the network level that hasn’t been seen in quiet some time. So, whether this proves to be a monumental shift in programming, or simply an experiment in late night television trickery it’ll be interesting to watch and observe and answer these questions.