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Leno's move and digital conversion will drive 18-49 to cable, says TBS

May 13, 2009 |  6:30 pm

KjgblencLENO When NBC's Jay Leno moves from late-night to prime time he isn't going to make life difficult only for his successor, Conan O'Brien. Apparently he's going to doom the entire broadcast industry as well. OK, we're kidding ... a little.

Turner Broadcasting's top research spinner, Jack Wakshlag, says the big four broadcast networks will see their ratings among the coveted 18-49 audience drop as much as 10.5% next season, almost twice the attrition endured in that demographic over the last several years. He lays some of the blame on Leno.

According to Wakshlag, Leno will cause a chunk of the under-50 crowd to flee, and many of them will go to cable instead of other broadcast networks.

But it's not all Jay's fault. The conversion from analog to digital, which was once seen as a potential savior for broadcast television, will also take a chunk of their audience away. Here's why. Millions have opted to subscribe to cable in anticipation of the June 12 conversion to digital television. That means people who once had five channels to choose from now have 150 to surf through, and when that happens broadcast viewing drops by as much as two-thirds.

Of course, considering Wakshlag is shilling for cable channels TNT and TBS, we shouldn't exactly expect him to come out and say things are looking up for broadcast television. And he has a tough sell job on Madison Avenue. While cable networks have 60% of the prime-time share for this season, broadcast networks still get 71% of prime-time advertising dollars.

-- Joe Flint

Photo Credit: Jay Leno by David Kohl / Associated Press

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