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TCA press tour: ABC chief gets digs in at NBC's new Jay Leno show

August 8, 2009 |  3:39 pm

117387_1966_ful "The Jay Leno Show" won't hit the air until next month, but the head of ABC is already taking some none-too-subtle swipes at it.

By putting a talk show in the 10 p.m. hour usually reserved for scripted dramas, NBC is "doing their own thing, and the other networks seem to be following in the tradition of putting on great material," Steve McPherson, president of the ABC Entertainment Group, told reporters at the TCA press tour in Pasadena Saturday. 

"I think NBC's in transition right now," he said. "We're all anxious to see what happens with Leno."

McPherson predicted that Leno's show would not earn the 5.0 or better rating among adults aged 18 to 49 that a successful network drama can get, even amid continuing audience declines.

"We do see 10 o'clock as a major opportunity for us," he added.

Whether ABC can take advantage of that opportunity is another question. With "Lost" set to end soon and "Desperate Housewives" aging, the heat is on for the network to find new hit dramas. Recent efforts such as "Eli Stone" and "Dirty Sexy Money" failed to catch fire. 

"The strike really derailed us," McPherson said, referring to the three-month writers strike that ended in early 2008 and halted production on scripted series. 

McPherson admitted that the high cost of scripted shows is a "major issue," but added, in what could be taken as another dig at NBC, "We have to remain ambitious."

But McPherson also attempted to strike a diplomatic tone.

Asked directly about NBC's well-documented woes, he replied: "We want a great competitor and we want the broadcast business to be really vibrant."

-- Scott Collins 

--Photo: Steve McPherson/Credit: Getty Images




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