I spent many years anchoring the late news for an NBC-owned station, so I’m keenly aware of why general managers at NBC affiliates across America banded together, morphed into “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and wrestled the network to the ground. They’d had it up to HERE with The Jay Leno Show experiment strangling their revenue streams, so they let loose with a SmackDown after four months.
The affiliates tag-teamed the network. But you can also credit your own thumb – the one that you use to change the channels on your remote control.
Turns out, your thumb is actually the biggest part of this story. Why? Because you tend to ease your death grip on the remote at 11 PM. Maybe it’s because your significant other has fallen asleep, maybe you’ve run out of juice for the day, or maybe it’s because you feel that all 11 PM newscasts are basically alike. (News-Weather-Sports. Yadda-Yadda-Yadda.) Whatever your reason, the channel you land on at 10 PM tends to win your eyeballs for the 11PM News due to your suddenly lazy thumb.
Why is this so important? It’s simple, lopsided math. In contract negotiations during my years as a prime time anchor, management revealed that late evening newscasts were responsible for up to 45% of the station’s advertising revenues. So in order to dial for dollars, we needed the network’s 10 PM programming to hand us a boatload of viewers who’d already put down their weapons for the night. (Of course, we hoped to attract you with our fetching hairstyles and sparkling news anchor personalities, but most of us knew better than that.)
So there you have it. For the past four months, NBC has stuck its affiliates with rotten ratings leading into their Power Hour while it was saving tons of cash shunning costly scripted dramas. In response, the affiliates produced their own drama worthy of the Internet Age. Amid already-ravaged advertising revenue, they tag-teamed NBC and toppled the network with a “Stone Cold” Stunner.