MediaFile

from DealZone:

Comcast the Barbarian?

Conan O'Brien could well be headed to Fox after making it clear to NBC that he will not go graciously into the later night. But a channel-changing question that is making the rounds has more to do with what the drama unfolding between O'Brien and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno says about NBC and its agreed joint venture with Comcast. If nothing else, the lack of replacement programming for the slot Leno is vacating, and the purported profitability NBC still enjoyed by having a cheaper, single-star variety show in a traditionally pricey prime-time slot, raise an obvious question -- why the rush?

John Hudson at the AtlanticWire does a nice job of collecting some thoughts on pressure that was probably building from Comcast, from angry affiliates who wanted Leno and his show's crummy ratings out of that vital pre-news slot, to improving PR.

"Though NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Gaspin said the Comcast deal has nothing to do with the decision, pundits say Gaspin has 'every incentive to show improvement' before his new bosses at Comcast takeover," Hudson says.

NBC said local affiliates had seen a 30 percent drop in audiences for their 11 p.m. news shows because of the weak lead-in from Leno. That would certainly have been alarming to Comcast, which knows a lot more about getting content into people's homes than it does about who is funnier, Conan or Leno.

Another reason Comcast may be the ultimate culprit here is change itself. Taking big, noisy, tough decisions before the deal with NBC gets its regulatory blessing means not having to take them when a new bunch of executives is taking charge of the remote control.

CBS chief digging Leno’s move to primetime

CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves doesn’t sound particularly worried about NBC’s decision to put Jay Leno in the 10:00 pm timeslot five nights a week. In fact, he sounds a bit giddy about the whole thing.

The way Moonves figures it, CBS could bank millions in additional revenue from the switch. Moonves described his thinking on a call with investors, using what he acknowledged were “ballpark” figures to make his point.  Essentially he said that even if Leno does well the show simply will not attract the kind of advertising dollars of, say, “CSI”. That means CBS will take an even bigger share of the advertising money in primetime.

“Assume we were the No. 1 at 10:00 last year and we took in 38 percent of the revenue available at 10:00 on broadcast television. Remember, there are only three networks [Ed: Fox doesn't run competing programming at that hour] And assuming Jay Leno does great, does what he’s doing now. Suddenly, that 38 percent will turn into 45 percent, maybe 47 percent. So you take 10 percent more revenue in that time period. And 10 percent of an arguably many hundreds of millions of dollars pie is a lot of money.

MySpace friends ex-Facebooker

It looks like MySpace is getting closer to raiding the competition — at least, one step removed. Facebook veteran Owen Van Natta is expected to be named as the new head of News Corp’s MySpace social network on Friday.

The appointment comes after Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate said earlier this week that MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe would not renew his CEO contract, which expires in the fall. News Corp also said  co-founder Tom Anderson was in talks about taking a new role in the company.

Facebook has already surpassed MySpace in worldwide users. Even though Van Natta, like other high-profile Facebook executives, had left the company already, the question now is whether he can sprinkle some much-needed fairy dust on MySpace that will help it improve its flagging performance. In one sense, this might be starting already. Kara Swisher, proprietor of the Boomtown blog at the News Corp/Dow Jones-owned All Things Digital, reports that part of Van Natta’s remit will be to recruit more new talent to MySpace.

Same old song: Ad spending forecast cut yet again

So how low can it go? One percent? Three percent? Five percent? Let’s try a decline of 6.9 percent — since that’s the latest forecast for global advertising spending from ZenithOptimedia.

To the surprise of few, the agency, part of French advertising group Publicis, revised downward its outlook for 2009, predicting that only Internet ad spending now looks like it will rise for the year.

“Since we released our last forecasts in December the global ad market has taken a substantial turn for the worse,” said ZenithOptimedia. (Back then, the agency was calling for a flat market).

Jay Leno to NBC’s Rescue

How odd is it that perhaps the most exciting story in network television is not about “Lost”, “Fringe” or some other edgy, expensive small-screen phenomenon, but instead, about a veteran night time talk show host moving to prime time?

According to reports, NBC is set to announce today that Jay Leno, who relinquishes his “Tonight Show” gig next May, will get a new show at 10 p.m. each night “in a format similar to “The Tonight Show.”

This news comes as last-place NBC tries to cut costs during the economic slowdown. It wants to streamline creative decision-making. I suppose you can’t streamline it any more than putting the same gab-fest on every weekday night to compete with everything from legal and espionage yarns to hospital dramas and time travel shows.